FOR as long as I’ve been a Glaswegian – which is since student days – I have simply taken the M8 at Charing Cross for granted. But pinch yourself for a moment, and you realise what a monstrous chasm it is.

A road bridge allows you to trudge from the train station to the Mitchell Library. Stop halfway, press your chest to the rail, and all the vehicles in the world thunder madly and relentlessly below you. God knows what damage is done every time you inhale.

Turn around, and it’s even uglier. A salmon-coloured office block splurges absurdly over the lanes below. It rests itself on one of the supporting podiums of the infamous Inner Ring Road, abandoned due to general protest in the early 80s.

This would have smashed its way through High Street and Merchant City, even compromising Glasgow Cathedral itself. For once, auto-obsessed planners were halted in their tracks.

Extreme scenes like these thrill the hipsters, quivering excitedly at all that lovely brutalism. But let’s be honest: Glasgow’s Charing Cross is a howling, misshapen, throat-seizing hell-hole.

So the news this week that these chasms could be roofed over, and those roofs then turned into a sylvian “skypark”, immediately lifted my spirits. The visualisations show happy citizens strolling through greenery, all pathways leading to the doors of the Mitchell.

(Click here to watch a video of the proposed project)

The incorrigible voice of the Glasgow City Council head Frank McAveety making the announcement lowered my spirits again somewhat. As did the memory of the debacle a few years ago around the cancelled redevelopment of George Square. This was notable for one plan’s ambition to install permanent and special water features in the area.

Special water features. In Glasgow?

But the main defence against the George Square development was about maintaining its symbolic (and historic) role as the open heart of the city. The square should be a flexible place for protest and assembly, temporary entertainments, or just sheer daundering about.

Somewhere to be defended against the march of the retailers. Or even those city councillors unhappy at Saltire-waving masses outside their windows.

So credit where it’s due: the Charing Cross development promises the creation of new public space, reclaimed from the almighty car. Neil McGuire of the New Glasgow Society has shot his hand up, drawing our attention to his video provocation shown at the Lighthouse in 2007, which shows the grass marching over the motorway.

But the general response from Glasgow’s urbanists – who, remember, once stopped a motorway – has been a cautious thumbs-up. Johnny Rodger, Professor of Urban Literature at the Glasgow School of Art and editor of The Drouth, draws favourable comparisons with two other big-city projects: the High Line in New York, and the troubled Garden Bridge over the Thames.

The High Line – an obsolete elevated freight railway track, reclaimed as a pedestrian space – is lovely to experience. The angry, two-fisted Manhattan of old seems temporarily tamed; as you walk the boards, enjoy the curated performers and smell the flowers (or “exceptional plant design” as their website puts it).

Yet Manhattan will have its way. While maintenance of the High Line itself relies on charitable donations, property and rental values around the line have soared – driving away small businesses and moderate-income residents.

The M8 park is part of a regeneration framework for the whole Sauchiehall and Garnethill area. One presumes their stated aspirations for a “living and thriving district” means serving existing locals, not pricing them out. “Eco-gentrification”, as the experts put it, is the danger. Worth the watching.

The Garden Bridge project in London, one of Boris Johnson’s galumphing legacies, is currently looking more than a bit wobbly. The visualisations show a Thames bridge festooned in greenery, a rare lungful of nature in the megacity’s centre.

But the objections are that public money (£20 million or so to date, with hundreds more to come if approved) is being devoted to an essentially private initiative. The Garden Bridge will be able to set its own rules, close at night to pedestrians, and red-rope itself entirely for corporate events. So far, so Boris. The new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is lukewarm on the project.

As in the George Square defence, we’d need to keep an eye on what ‘rules’ (contingent on what investors) would be laid down for the M8 park. How free might association be there? Will public assembly be as encouraged as coffee stands serving flat-whites?

No-one says that urban development, particularly in the age of the “city brand”, is ever going to be easy – a smooth, consensual affair, best settled privately over succulent lamb. Cities are for citizens, as well as city fathers and mothers.

We should value the experience that Glasgow (or any other city) belongs to me – a public space to which I have the right of access and voice, not dependent on my finances or status. The ‘commons’ of a city creates a precious reserve of general well-being, in the midst of tough and austere times.

So in the words of the New Glasgow Society chair Lex Lamb: if the M8 park can turn this “Stinking Valley and its cloud of particulates” into a pedestrian and bike-friendly reconnection between sundered parts of Glasgow, it’s to be welcomed.

Our two other current Scottish stories about great urban constructions are the V&A Museum of Design in Dundee, and the recently completed Queensferry Crossing over the Forth.

The latter is already generating its glittery high-definition tourist pictures. And also, with predictable opportunism, the bridge is being pulled into political meme-wars. “Scotland builds bridges, not walls” is a tweet I’ve seen regularly over the last few weeks. Expect to feel that subtext thrum away as the final ribbon is cut by the First Minister.

The V&A in Dundee still looks to be a striking development, the slatted bowls of Kengo Kuma’s style at the cutting edge of architectural design. But chums beside the silvery Tay tell me that there is an acute funding flaw at the heart of this.

This “national” asset will have its running costs met by Dundee City Council – who have already faced £23m of cuts in 2016-17, and still face tens of millions in 2017-2018. “How will they pay for the V&A?” says one of my anxious pals. “They’ll pay for it with even more cuts in services for families in need, older people’s home care, that’s what.”

We are only at the feasibility stage with the M8 park – and it’s notable that their cited exemplar, the Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, says it’s “privately operated and managed”. In the face of our overall constraints on public spending in Scotland, will that be the temptation here?

The Queensferry Crossing is a win-win-win project – under budget, on time, evidently beautiful, and a necessary chunk of public infrastructure. But for all my own love of ambitious, evolving cities, I wonder whether the bold urban project always generates its own benefits, no matter the prevailing climate.

I hope Scotland does decide to escape from the entropy of Brexit.

But if so, there will still be a period where we’ll have to steady our finances and reserves, and show our commitment to good macro-economic management, in the face of the judgements of global markets.

Our target is Denmark – a thriving, sustainable economy, taking a greater proportion of overall tax. The results are evident… not least in the country’s striking amount of public builds and projects of all kinds.

But we’ll have a path to travel to get there. And in the short- to medium-term, an independent Scotland may have to make resource-calls that answer primary care first.

So I wish McAveety – a “Glasgow nationalist” to his core – all the best with the M8 park. It’s good to dream and envision. But the future, for just about everything at the moment, is wide-open.