AN £80 MILLION project to regenerate the centre of Glasgow has been given the green light by Scottish Ministers.
Glasgow City Council's Buchanan Quarter project includes improvements to George Square and Upper Dundas Street to be completed before the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Also in line for upgrading are the Royal Concert Hall and Buchanan Street, the Cathedral Street bridge which will be strengthened and access to Queen Street rail station improved.
The project will be financed using the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) scheme.
The news was welcomed by city chiefs although Green politicians hit out at what they dubbed a "reckless gamble" using taxpayer's cash.
Under TIF, councils fund infrastructure by borrowing against future business rate income that should be generated by the resulting regeneration and development.
The Buchanan Quarter is also expected to bring in £310 million in private investment and create almost 1500 jobs.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Big building projects like Buchanan Quarter are not just about the improved infrastructure we gain at the end, they are about the employment and the training that takes place during construction.
"This development will continue the regeneration of the city centre, improving the public spaces and creating modern, vibrant new facilities that will cement Glasgow's position as a major international destination for visitors.
"The Scottish Government will use every lever at our disposal, within our devolved powers, to boost capital spending and, through innovative financing schemes such as TIF, help the Scottish economy."
Liz Cameron, executive member for jobs and the economy at Glasgow City Council, said: "The Buchanan Quarter project will continue the regeneration of Glasgow and help the city centre retain its position as the biggest shopping destination in the UK outside of London.
"The delivery of the project will bring a massive economic and jobs boost, and make our city centre even more attractive to shoppers and visitors."
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Greens, criticised the use of the TIF scheme to fund the project.
He said: "Using taxpayers' money to back a profit-driven private development, based on the absurd prediction of everlasting retail growth, is a reckless gamble.
"It smacks of desperation that the Scottish Government and the city council are putting so much faith in this risky scheme at a time when retailers aren't investing and consumers aren't spending.
"There is a serious danger that this scheme falls apart and the council has to bail it out, diverting resources from schools, social work and public transport.
"The real priorities in Glasgow are being put at risk by the lure of the shiny bauble that is high-end shopping."