Glasgow: Facts & Figures

Glasgow: Facts & Figures

Glasgow is Scotlands largest and most populous city, and is also Scotlands commercial capital. The City of Glasgow is the third most populous city in the UK and is also the UKs largest retail capital after London.

Demography and Population

Glasgow is by far the largest of Scotland’s cities, with a population of 580,690 in 2006. The City of Glasgow is located at the centre of the Glasgow and the Clyde Valley metropolitan area, which currenty has a population of around 1.75 million people.

There are two distinct definitions for the population of Glasgow; the Glasgow City Council Area (which lost the districts of Rutherglen and Cambuslang to South Lanarkshire in 1996) and the Greater Glasgow Urban Area which includes the metropolitan area around the city.

Since the late 1980s there have been several boundary changes to the Glasgow City Council Area. Presently, the city’s official boundaries encompass 67.76 square miles (or 175 square kilometres), and the Greater Glasgow Urban Area is 142.27 square miles (or 268 square kilometres). But in fact, the city still continues to expand beyond it’s official boundaries into the surrounding suburban areas, and actually encompasses around 400 square miles (or 1,000 square kilometres).

The graph shows how the population size of Glasgow has changed over the past 120 years (population sizes are estimated from Glasgow population census data).

Since the 1840s to present day, massive numbers of Irish immigrants have settled in Glasgow, and have contributed massively to the city not only in terms of workforce, but also in culture and even religion; the Irish have contributed to the expolive growth of Roman Catholicism in the city. A relatively large number of Scottish Highlanders also migrated to the city as a result of the Highland Clearances.

Then in the early 20th century, many Lithuanian asylum seekers began to settle in Glasgow, and in the 1950s there were around 10,000 Lithuanians in the Glasgow area. Around the same time many Italians also settled in Glasgow, mainly to work as “Hokey-Pokey” men (vendors of ice-cream).

In the 1960s and 1970s Glasgow became a popular settlement for many Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani & Sri Lankans, particlarly within the Pollockshields area of the city. At the same time, many Cantonese immigrants also began to settle in the Garnethill area of Glasgow.

The population of the Glasgow City Council area was at it’s highest from the 1880s to the 1950s, when Glasgow had more than 1 million inhabitants. During this time, the City of Glasgow was one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

During the 1960s new towns were being built to accomodate the overspill of people from the poverty-stricken areas of Glasgow such as the Gorbals. Many of these poverty-stricken areas were cleared after the 1960s, and the residents were relocated to these new towns (e.g. East Kilbride). This provided an opportunity to reduce housing densities and improve conditions in spme parts of the city.

High levels of migration out of the city continued until the late 1970s, leading to a gradual reduction in population size and density within the City of Glasgow. Since then, out-migration has declined in line with Glasgow City Councils objective to halt population loss from the city, and to encourage more people to live in Glasgow.

Since 2001, out-migration has continued to occur from Glasgow. But new waves of immigrants from EU Accession Countries and asylum seekers have meant that Glasgow’s population size has again begun to increase by around 400 people per year since 2001 (0.2% population growth rate).

The population density in Glasgow is currently around 8,600 people per square mile (3,300 per square kilometre). Compared to the City of London (Inner London), which has around 23.440 inhabitants per square mile (9,050 per square kilometre), the City of Glasgow has less than half the current population density.


The City of Glasgow did not have a coat of arms until the middle of the 19th century – in 1866 – when the Lord Lyon King at Arms gave approval for one which had been used on official seals up until then.

The coat of arms of the City of Glasgow incorporates a number of symbols and emblems assiciated with the life of Saint Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint (who was originally named Kentigern). The supporters on the coat of arms are two salmon, both bearing rings. The crest is a half length figure of Saint Mungo, wearing a bishop’s mitre and liturgical vestments and he has his hand raised in “the act of benediction”.

The current version of the coat of arms has a gold mural crown between the shield and the crest. The symbols and emblems are listed in the traditional rhyme:

Here’s the bird that never flew,

Here’s the tree that never grew,

Here’s the bell that never rang,

Here’s the fish that never swam

Each of these represent miracles that are said to have been performed by Saint Mungo, listed below.

The Tree That Never Grew:

The tree in the coat of arms is a now sturdy oak tree, but it started out as a branch of a hazel tree. The legend says that Saint Mungo was in charge of a holy fire in Saint Serf’s Monastery and fell asleep. Some boys who were envious of his favoured position with Saint Serf put out the fire. But Saint Mungo broke off some frozen branches from a hazel tree and, by praying over them, caused them to burst into flames.

The Bird That Never Flew:

This commemorates a wild robin which was tamed by St Serf and which was accidentally killed. Saint Mungo was blamed for the death but he is said to have taken the dead bird, prayed over it and it was subsequently restored to life.

The Bell That Never Rang:

In 1450, John Stewart, the first Lord Provost of Glasgow, left an endowment so that a “St Mungo’s Bell” could be made and tolled throughout the city so that the citizens would pray for his soul. The bell was still ringing out in 1578, as there is an entry in the City Treasurer’s accounts two shillings (10p) “for one tong to St Mungowis Bell.” A new bell was purchased by the magistrates in 1641 and that bell is on display in the People’s Palace museum near Glasgow Green.

In 1631, another bell was made, this time for the Tron Church on which was inscribed the words “Lord, let Glasgow Flourish by the preaching of the word,” derived from Glasgow’s motto.

The Fish That Never Swam:

The coat of arms always shows the fish with a ring held in its mouth. This is because a King of Strathclyde had given his wife a ring as a present. But the Queen gave it to a knight who promptly lost it. Some versions of the story say that the King took the ring while the knight was asleep and threw it in the river. The King then demanded to see the ring, threatening death to the Queen if she could not do so. The knight confessed to St Mungo who sent a monk to catch a fish in the river Clyde. When this was brought back St Mungo cut open the fish and found the ring. When the Bishop of Glasgow was designing his own seal around 1271, he used the illustration of a salmon with a ring in its mouth and this has been passed down to us in today’s coat of arms.

Glasgow’s Motto

Glasgow’s motto “Let Glasgow Flourish” (present at the bottom of the coat of arms) is although thought to have been derived from Saint Mungo. Apparently Mungo preached a sermon containing the words “Lord, let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the word and the praising of thy name)“. This was abbreviated into the current format, and is still used today as the City of Glasgow’s motto.


Glasgow is Scotland’s largest urban economy, and is the hub of the metropolitan area of West Central Scotland. Glasgow generates over £13 billion Gross Value Added each year, supports over 400,000 jobs in more than 12,000 companies, and has the third largest Gross Domestic Product Per Capita in the UK, after London and Edinburgh.

The number of jobs located in the city grew by more than 70,000 in the ten years previous to 2005, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, and now 55% of people in the Greater Glasgow Area communte to the city on a daily basis. Currently, Glasgow’s annual economic growth rate of 4.4% is second only to that of London.

Manufacturing industries such as shipbuidling and heavy engineering, which were once dominant in the city of the working class, have gradually been replaced in importance by a more diversified economy. In what is now a services-based economy dominated by financial and business services, public administration, health and retail, average earnings have seen a year on year increase and investment in business, infrastructure and property is thriving.

In recent years there has been significant growth in tertiary sector industries such as communications, biosciences, healthcare, higher education, retail and tourism. Glasgow is now one of Europes largest financial centres, and is the fourth most popular tourist destination in the UK (Edinburgh still beats us).

Despite all of this new business, Glasgow still has strong links to the manufacturing sector, which accounts for more than 60% of Scotland’s manufactured exports. Keeping true to our history, Glasgow has particular strengths in shipbuilding, engineering and food and drink, along with newer sectors such as publishing, chemicals, textiles, software development and biotechnology.

Districts and suburbs

Historically, Glasgow was based around the River Clyde. The City was built up around Glasgow Cathedral, the old High Street, and extended down to the River Clyde via Glasgow Cross. (To learn more about the history of Glasgow, see our History of Glasgow page).

City Centre

Glasgow’s city centre (or “the town” as it is called by the locals) is comprised of a grid system of streets, similar to that of many other European cities, and the same type of grid system that a few American cities have used (e.g. Boston). The city centre area is bordered by the M8 motorway to the west and north, the River Clyde to the South, and High Street in the east.

Retail and Theatre District

Glasgow is the largest and most economically important retail sector in Scotland, and within the UK is second only to the City of London. Many of the large UK department stores have branches within the city centre of Glasgow, such as John Lewis, House of Fraser and Debenhams. Several others are thought to be planning developments within Glasgow; Selfridges has already bought a development site, and Harvey Nichols is thought to be planning a store in Glasgow city centre.

The retail and theatre district actually takes up much of the city centre. The main shopping centres (malls) within Glasgow city centre are the Buchanan Galleries and the St Enoch Centre. These contain all the high street names you might expect in a large cosmopolitan UK city. There are also two more upmarket shopping centres, which are Princes Square and the Italian Centre, both of which specialise in designer labels, although Princes Square also contains a number of great restaurants and bars.

The main shopping precincts are on Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street, and Argyle Street. Buchanan Street contains more upmarket retailers, and was the winner of the Academy of Urbanisms “Great Street Award” in 2008. (The main entrance to Princes Square is also on Buchanan Street). All three streets together make up around two and a half miles (approx. 4 km) of shopping! Because of their layout within the city, they have been named the “Golden Z”.

This area of the city centre also encompasses many of Glasgow’s cultural venues. These include the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA); the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA); The Theatre Royal, home to the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet; The Kings Theatre; The Pavillion Theatre; Glasgow Royal Concert Hall; Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT). Just beside the Buchanan Galleries, on the corner of Renfrew St and Renfield St is the worlds tallest cinema, the eighteen-screen Cineworld.

Glasgow’s retail and theatre district also contains many of the city’s higher education insititions; the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in the north of the city centre, the University of Strathclyde and Caldeonian University in the east of the city centre, and the Glasgow School of Art in the more westerly reaches of the city centre.

Merchant City (Cultural District)

In the east of the city centre lies Glasgow’s Merchant City. With its recently redefined boundaries, this is one of the oldest parts of Glasgow, and for centuries was the home of monks and merchants.

This area was once endowed with rose gardens and orangeries, but as the wealth of the city of Glasgow developed during and after the Industrial Revolution, so did the Merchant City. The original medieval centre was left behind, and the Merchant City became a place for the wealthy merchants to enjoy. The city became very run-down during the war, and coupled with high levels of pollution up to the late 1800s, the Merchant City became far less popular.

In the 1980s the regeneration of the city and great amounts of investment resulted in a revival of the Merchant City. Artists began to colonise the area, making use of the run-down workshops and empty shop units; empty merchants houses became hotels and eateries (e.g. Babbity Bowster, Merchant House Hotel and Rab Ha’s) and disused churches were converted into what are now the Tron Theatre, Ramshorn Theatre and St. Andrew’s in the Square. These venues once again became popular, and still are among the theatre-going and music-loving audiences of the city. Warehouses were converted into luxury city centre apartments and the old Merchant City gave rise to the new, trendy, upmarket Merchant City.

The Merchant City has grown into one of Glasgow’s most prized areas. Centre of the cultural movement within Glasgow, the Merchant City has aided in the development of ‘the arts’ within the city. Art galleries, workshops, artists studios, theatres and concert venues are abundant in the Merchant City. Home to a large number of high end boutique style shops, and many upmarket stores, this area of the city has once again returned to its status of wealth.

Not just a cultural centre though, the Merchant City is also a hive of activity when it comes to the culinary arts. Many of the city’s finest restaurants and bars are present in the Merchant City, and the area is positively buzzing with nightlife most nights of the week. In addition to this, the Merchant City also hosts a large part of Glasgow’s LGBT scene.

Financial District

The financial district lies on the western edge of Glasgow city centre, emcompassing both Blythswood Hill and Anderston. This area is officially known as the International Financial Services District (IFSD), and is thought to be the third largest financial quarter in the UK after the City of London and Edinburgh.

Since the 1980s the IFSD has grown substantially, with new and modern office blocks still being developed today. Glasgow is now reknowned as an established financial services centre, and continues to attract and grow new business.

8 of the 10 largest general insurance companies in the UK either have a base or a head office in Glasgow. These include AIG, AXA, Direct Line and Norwich Union. A number of the UKs and foremost banking companies have also relocated some of their services to commercial property in Glasgow. These include Morgan Stanley, Abbey, Barclays Wealth, JPMorgan, Lloyds TSB, Resolution, Clydesdale Bank, HBOS and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Many other important financial institutions also have bases, headquarters or head offices within the Glasgow financial district. These include (but are by no means limited to) the Ministry of Defence (which actually have several branches in Glasgow), Clydeport, the Glasgow Stock Exchange, Student Loans Company, Scottish Executive Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Scottish Enterprise.


For information on Glasgow’s public transport, see Glasgowvant’s travel guide.