As I See It: Terry Murden
The skies over Glasgow may have been grey and gloomy, but the outlook looks distinctly brighter than some of the naysayers would have us believe.
Barclays was giving an update on its swanky new offices on the south bank of the Clyde at Tradeston, a long-neglected site directly opposite the bustling Broomielaw.
The Barclays development will expand the International Financial District across the river. It represents a £400 million investment to create three blocks that will eventually house 5,000 workers. That will make it one of the biggest private sector employers in Glasgow and Scotland. About 2,000 will be employed in tackling financial crime.
It will be a self-contained community with its own shops, restaurants, a 120-place creche, possibly a hair salon and even a tattooist.
Sources tell me it will also become one of just five giant hubs in the UK , replacing 14 existing sites, as the bank consolidates its operations around the country.
Scott Stewart, head of Barclays Scotland would only say this was “under consideration”, but it was clear that the focus on creating these new campuses is now a key to the bank’s strategy.
The Tradeston site is a huge vote of confidence in Scotland which Charlie Smith of Scottish Development International attributes to local skills which are increasingly important in the competition for big ticket investments.
SDI chose the Barclays project as the location to unveil its latest inward investment figures which show Scotland continuing to punch above its weight. It remains top choice outside London and SDI is predicting that trend will continue.
So much for the collapse in jobs predicted by the anti-Brexiteers who claimed it would scare off investors. I challenged Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, who was on site to announce the latest figures, to square his party’s claims of success for SDI with continued warnings of Brexit-induced job losses.
He insisted that there was no contradiction and that the growing level of investment was in spite of Brexit and that without Brexit the numbers would be even higher.
If that sounds a bit like having it both ways, the political arguments seem to be washing over investors. Clearly there has been some caution and hesitation, and some deals have been delayed, but the mood seems to be “onwards and upwards”. JP Morgan is building a huge new HQ in Glasgow, as is Virgin Money.
Barclays looked at a number of options, including greenfield sites, before opting for central Glasgow. I asked Mr Stewart if the independence debate had influenced its decision. “Absolutely not”, he replied. What about Brexit? “We made the decision post the referendum,” he said.
Glasgow’s problem is not a lack of investment, but a lack of top quality offices to house it all.