Sunday Post column in full
No prizes for guessing the biggest day ahead for most Scottish politicians.
With the Donside by-election out of the way the next big gig is Referendum Day itself -- September 18th 2014. But Dundonians have a big circle round another date – this November. In just 5 months the home of Desperate Dan will discover if it's trumped Leicester, Swansea Bay and Hull to become UK City of Culture 2017. Do they have a chance? And should we care?
Well, if the bookies are right, Dundee is the rank outsider and Swansea Bay the 2/1 favourite. The Welsh entry, backed by former Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies, features a Festival of unsigned musicians, a hi-tech history lab and a children's paegant. No offence to our Welsh cousins – but is that it??
If Dundee -- once known for jam, jute and journalism – wanted to compete on jamming, jiving and jazz instead it could sweep Swansea aside in an instant. A Dundee super-group could enlist members of Deacon Blue, The View, Hazey Janes, Average White Band, Anderson, McGinty, Webster, Ward and Fisher and Danny Wilson with Sheena Wellington singing "A Man's a Man for a That." Well if Dundee's Trad Music Queen once launched a Parliament why not a UK Year of Culture too? And since all Dundee kids are set to get free music tuition, by 2017 there could be one heck of a backing band. And that's just the musical side of things.
On star backers Dundee kinda outperforms Swansea too -- backed by the Post's own Lorraine Kelly, film star Brian Cox and perhaps – now Aberdeen's out of the running-- big supporters of the Granite City like Billy Connolly and Emelie Sande. Dundee is a great wee city known by too few Scots with more hours of sunshine, the purest air quality and more green spaces for its size than any other Scottish city. You can see dolphins as you walk beside the Tay, and two Munros inland in the Angus glens. Eighteen championship golf courses lie within 30 minutes and Dundee has more students per head of the population than any European city bar Heidelberg. As the city's Development Director Mike Galloway puts it, "Dundee is small enough to get good ideas adopted fast but big enough to feel lively."
He's not kidding. The city's ambitious waterfront project is halfway through a £1 billion revamp. Tayside House – the much-hated former council offices -- will be completely demolished in a fortnight. A fab new swimming pool will open next week to replace the ageing Olympia leisure centre -- brave souls on the new cannonball flume pass through holograms of a shark before splashing into the pool. And although Network Rail went back on pledges to facelift the grotty station, Dundee Council's taken on that job too – they'll be gutting the building this winter. The jewel in the crown will be the V&A – the only outpost of the famous London museum – opening in early 2016 as long as the city has raised £34 million by next spring. I'm sure they'll make it. And once Dundee has cut its teeth on all these big, bold projects, the City of Culture 2017 will be the icing on the cake. But do they have a chance? Well Chester were bookies favourite last month but they failed to make the final cut. So anything could happen.
None of this denies that Dundee has social problems aplenty. Glasgow as European City of Culture became gentrified and cool -- but couldn't replace the lost jobs, find a new sense of purpose or improve the health of its people. We all know a glamorous title for a year doth not a revolution make. And yet -- a city on a roll is better placed to tackle social problems than a city in the doldrums. November 2013 could be Dundee's Big Day. So c'mon Scotland -- mark the calendar.