NEWPORT could follow in the footsteps of Glasgow and prove its doubters wrong.

That was the message from Gordon Merrylees, managing director entrepreneurship, for Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Ulster Bank, when he was guest speaker at the South Wales Argus Business Awards.

He said: “The people here in Newport are special - they share the pride Glaswegians have for their home city.”


Mr Merrylees - himself a Glaswegian - said: “I see many similarities between Newport and Glasgow. These similarities are important because they shine a light on the potential that exists in Newport - a potential that maybe some have questioned, but one that has been absolutely confirmed by a recent report by our NatWest economics team.

He told the sponsors, finalists and guests at the awards evening at the Newport Centre: “Glasgow had its own doubters. And there was a time when it was hard not to side with them. Growing up in the city, Glasgow was a very different place to what it is today.

“Back then the city’s reputation sadly preceded it for all the wrong reasons – high unemployment, social unrest, and an appetite for crime and drug abuse, it was unrecognisable to the global success story that Glasgow is today.

“So how did a city once loved by few transform itself into one of Europe’s most vibrant and dynamic cities that would go on to this year be voted the world’s friendliest city?

South Wales Argus:


“Well the answer is complex – years of regeneration and investment ultimately made the difference coupled alongside a cultural shift in attitude, which was equally as important.

“If I had to pick two significant milestones in this transformation over the last 35 years, I would cite the opening of the Scottish Exhibition Centre, and more recently the launch in 2013 of the city’s new brand People Make Glasgow.

“The centre was officially opened in 1985 and over the years has been developed to become an events campus with multiple buildings and facilities. It is a hugely impressive facility that has consistently attracted major international events leading to a proliferation of global visitors to the city.

“In fact, by 2017, the number of foreign visitors to Glasgow had grown to nearly 800,000 people, 149,000 of which were there for business.

“Newport now has its own centre of international importance – the International Convention Centre Wales – a facility NatWest is extremely proud to have supported through our funding of the project.

“This convention centre is a milestone of its own for Newport because it creates the prospect of an unprecedented number of new visitors to the city - visitors wanting to experience the best that Newport has to offer.

“Numbers mean nothing in terms of their longevity unless the visitor experience matches that of the impressive stature of the venue that has drawn them their in the first place.

“That is why Glasgow’s transformation has relied just as much upon its rebranding as a city that warmly embraces the people that come to visit it. The slogan People Make Glasgow was built around its people’s passion for their home and gave a platform to shine this aura of hospitality and friendship upon all those that visited.

South Wales Argus:


“Whether you were in a taxi, a restaurant, a café, a shop, or a venue, the welcome and service you received was gracious, generous and warm and that has continued to this day.

“The results? Well six years later, the city was voted one of the best cities in the world by Time Out magazine. An impressive feat for a city that 30 years earlier was only preceded by its bleak reputation.

“And so NatWest has partnered with the South Wales Argus to launch the City of Service Campaign. The objective, to replicate what Glasgow has achieved by utilising the opening of the International Convention Centre Wales and making Newport the country’s number one destination for customer service.

“The people here in Newport pride themselves upon a community like spirit to help each other. It is this spirit that the City of Service Campaign will shine a light upon.”

As part of this campaign the South Wales Argus will be launching a customer service programme to support businesses.

Those that complete the programme will be given a gold star accreditation and it will be these accredited businesses that will promoted to visitor through the campaign.

The recent NatWest report highlighted the economic importance and potential of Newport and the surrounding area.

It found that economy in the region grew faster during 2014 to 2017 than the average economic growth of the UK (2.2 per cent average versus 2.1 per cent average).


He said: “Newport should not be paralysed by a state of convulsion bred by apathy and cynicism.

It should embrace the very real opportunities in its hands.

“NatWest will support it – we will back businesses here and provide them with the funding, mentorship and support they need to grow. Ambition and belief is all that you need.

“My call to arms is to play your part in making Newport a ‘City of Service’ – Dream Big. And I hope to be invited back in a few years so that you can tell me stories of where Newport trumps Glasgow in more areas than just the rugby!”