PROPOSALS to charge “non-Glaswegians” access to the city’s museums have divided opinion – with supporters saying they can ease the council’s financial pressures as critics warned they would scare off tourists.

The option to begin charging for Glasgow museums, first reported in The Herald, is on the table, though city bosses appear uncomfortable with changing the longstanding policy of free entry.

It comes after the recent and deeply controversial decision to begin charging entry to the Kibble Palace glasshouse in the Botanic Gardens and fury from workers over plans to axe jobs in the city's museums and collections division.

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Ricky Bell, the deputy leader of the council, told The Herald: “I'm very keen and we are in discussions with the Scottish Government about giving us powers that we could raise our own revenue that's not entirely dependent on the government and charging for museums is something we need to consider.

"I don't believe there is ever a space in which we would charge Glaswegians for museum entrance but you do have to look at this."

And he said the council was looking at ways to exclude Glaswegians from being charged access, adding: “The challenge we have is how do you identify yourself as a Glaswegian?"

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He went on: “If you put a charge on for tourists, you then get into the argument of who is a tourist. Are Scottish non-Glaswegians allowed in for free?"

Paul Sweeney (below), a Labour MSP for the city, told The National that cuts to Glasgow’s budgets as well as its “artificially” small tax base meant the time had “now come to consider an entry charging scheme for non-Glasgow residents”.

The National:

He said: “Last year, Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Burrell Collection were amongst Scotland’s top ten visitor attractions, but they are the only attractions on that list that are not directly funded by the Scottish Government.

“With the exception of Edinburgh Zoo, which is run by a charitable trust charging entry fees, all the other Edinburgh-based attractions and Stirling Castle in the top ten are run by Scottish Government non-departmental public bodies National Museums Scotland or Historic Environment Scotland.

“The disproportionate cuts to Glasgow City Council’s budget imposed by the Scottish Government over the past decade are now seriously impacting on Glasgow Life to the extent that it is planning to cut 30% of jobs in the city's museums and collections division, so we must consider at all alternative options to sustain our city’s world-class museums and galleries, and the jobs of the highly skilled people who run them.

“With Glasgow’s tax base curtailed by an artificially small council boundary and a chronic lack of central government support for the city’s nationally important museums and galleries, the time has now come to consider an entry charging scheme for non-Glasgow residents that will help raise much-needed revenue to protect them.

“Given similar entry charge schemes successfully operate in other European cities in concert with tourist taxes with no obvious impact on visitor numbers, I don’t think many would begrudge such a measure to protect these amazing cultural assets, especially if concessionary discounts are in place for children and families.”

John Mason, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, said the proposals were “certainly worth looking at”.

He added: “On the one hand museums and art galleries, like Kelvingrove are part of our heritage and education and should be readily accessible for all Glaswegians. 

“I well remember for example [former] lord provost Liz Cameron saying how important Kelvingrove and the fact that it was free had been for her in her formative years.

“On the other hand, the books have to balance and running such facilities costs a lot of money. 

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“Many of us are used to paying fairly hefty charges for visiting historical sites elsewhere. I myself have been to Stirling Castle (£17) and Pompeii (€19) earlier this year.

“So hopefully a compromise can be reached. 

“Other cities often have certain days of the week or month which are free. 

“That can help local residents who can be more flexible as to when they visit; but tourists on a tight schedule are more likely to pay.”

The Scottish Conservatives stressed the point that tourists could be put off visiting Glasgow’s attractions if they were charged.

The National: Annie Wells

Annie Wells (above), a Tory MSP for Glasgow, said: “The fact this is even being considered lays bare the impact of the SNP’s savage cuts year-on-year to Glasgow City Council.

“Not only will this hit people in the pocket during a cost-of-living crisis, it also threatens to put off tourists visiting many of our city’s top attractions.

“Glasgow’s SNP-led council should be fully upfront with people as to how seriously they are considering this proposal and when it would be imposed.”