"I ACCEPT any criticism that comes my way,” Janey Godley said 18 months ago, as she apologised profusely to those hurt by offensive comments she had made on Twitter some years earlier. She had been dropped from a high-profile Scottish Government gig promoting Covid safety measures as a result.

Some doubtless assumed this was a storm in a teacup. A knee-jerk reaction from over-sensitive civil servants who couldn’t take a joke and thought the Scottish public needed protecting from potty-mouthed stand-up routines.

But no. Godley was apologising for a stream of racist remarks she had made about black celebrities and even random black members of the public she had encountered in a hotel and a branch of Burger King. And she hadn’t made these comments once or twice when she was young and naive – she’d made them repeatedly, in her 50s.

It’s necessary to bring up these matters because the judges of the Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award have declared Janey Godley the inaugural winner. They – and the Big Yin himself, who had the final say – are telling us they believe Godley personifies the spirit of Scotland’s biggest city.

If the Scottish Government still had a tourism minister, he or she wouldn’t be having the most relaxing start to the Easter break.

Judging by the enthusiastic response to the award news on social media, I suspect some people will have stopped reading this column a few paragraphs back, cracking their knuckles in preparation to condemn me as a supporter of “cancel culture” for daring to dredge up Godley’s past. After all, she apologised, didn’t she? Would it really be a proportionate punishment for her to never work again?

I haven’t, of course, suggested that Godley should never work again.

But the extent to which she has bounced back from disgrace is quite remarkable. Would the BBC have commissioned a new series from a young middle-class white English man who had made similar racist remarks, and broadcast it on Radio 4 with a blurb that referenced him “reeling from recent controversy”?

It seems highly unlikely. Is the implication here that a wee working-class woman fae Glasgow isn’t expected to know any better than to refer to a member of Destiny’s Child as “the black horse from USA”? If so, that’s something for Glasgow to be mortified about, not to celebrate.

It’s one thing trying to separate the art from the artist when it comes to comedy (perhaps the trickiest of all separations, given the personal and confessional nature of most stand-up), but it’s quite another to declare any artist – anyone at all – as reflecting the spirit of an entire city.

What was the thought process behind creating this new Glasgow International Comedy Festival award and then giving it to Godley?

The criteria, along with Connolly’s remark that “she’s been a pal of mine for about five or six years”, perhaps provide a clue. The winner was required to demonstrate humour, resilience, openness and depth, as well as (ironically in this case) being unapologetic.

I’d suggest that anyone whose character was truly reflective of the spirit of Glasgow would decline to accept a corresponding accolade on the basis of it being a pure riddy.

As the marketing slogan goes, it is people – plural – who make Glasgow, not any one individual who might presume to represent some mythical concept of the true, “authentic” Glaswegian.

My adopted home city flourishes due to its diversity, with its spirit reflected just as much by the guy with neon gloves having a one-man rave on Buchanan Street as by the wee lassie in her party dress performing a ballet routine to the Kelvingrove organ recital.

From the teenagers skateboarding at the Riverside Museum to the hipsters gathering round a campfire at Govan Graving Docks, to the guy who runs the Hidden Lane in Finnieston with his rich seam of historical anecdotes about the city’s most feared gangsters.

The Glasgow spirit infused two guys who were in my local park a couple of weeks ago testing out a didgeridoo and box drum they’d made from a plastic pipe and some plywood.

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It fills the hearts of the bouncing crowd at the Barras chanting “Here we f***ing go” as sweat drips off the ceiling.

And of course, there’s the classic comedy routines and iconic image of Billy Connolly himself. It’s perhaps telling that in October 2021, the month after Godley’s apology, Connolly declared that he would be shunned if starting out in comedy today with his material poking fun at religion, due to the rise of “political correctness”. No doubt that comment had some fans quickly clicking away from the news report lest their comedy hero be tarnished.

Instead of cancelling people, I suggest that going forward we cancel this daft award. If it’s fancy gongs and telly deals the comics are after, they can spirit themselves down the M8 to Edinburgh.