Pressure groups tend to be defined as organisations wishing to influence public policy while not wishing themselves to govern. Glasgow today is a vibrant pressure group city with 335 voluntary and community groups. Whilst the majority of these groups have been formed in recent years (58 per cent in the past twenty-five years) a significant number have historical roots.
Most of Glasgow's older pressure groups have economic roots. The development of sectional economic interests was an inevitable consequence of industrialisation in Glasgow. Industries such as chemicals, carpets, publishing, engineering, shipbuilding and iron and steel were important in the economic development of the city during the industrial revolution. Despite the "Red Clydeside" image Glasgow has a long history of engagement with its business interests. In recent years the re-imaging of Glasgow has involved organisations such as the Glasgow Eastern Area Renewal Project (GEAR), Glasgow Action and Glasgow Alliance that brought together networks of key pressure groups in the economic development field.
Historically Glasgow has operated as headquarters to a variety of regional and national groups in what could be termed the trade sphere (e.g. trade unions, trade and professional associations). However, the majority of groups in Glasgow operate at the neighbourhood/local district level in the public services (e.g. housing/tenants associations, health/transport user groups, community forums, voluntary organisations, churches and ethnic minorities). To these could be added groups focused on cultural issues. Glasgow houses the Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet and the Scottish Theatre Group. It has also been home to numerous local groups such as the Easterhouse Festival Society, formed in 1977, to sponsor such activities as amateur dramatics, gala days and other community activities. Such grassroots groups tend to be more active than more formal institutions such as community councils.
These groups have operated in a wide variety of areas such as community development, employment and training, advocacy, religion, social services, education, health, sport, environment and economic development. Local public agencies (e.g. Glasgow Council, Greater Glasgow Health Board) have over the years developed relationships of interdependency with such groups.
Glasgow also has a long history of single issue pressure groups. In recent years groups opposing the poll tax, water privatisation and the transfer of housing from council control have been amongst the most vocal. The latter carries along a tradition of housing pressure group activism with groups such as the Gorbals Anti-Dampness campaign.
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