You most likely know Glasgow as one of the friendliest cities on earth or for its reputation as the former shipbuilding capital of the world.
But what you might not know is that Glasgow is one of the best places to live and work in the UK.
Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow is known for its rich history, excellent shopping and vibrant nightlife.
Dynamic and ever-changing, both residents and visitors never fail to be impressed by what the city has to offer.
As one of Europe’s leading financial centres, financial services also play a key role in the city, with some of the biggest companies in the sector having a presence in Glasgow.
If you are considering a move to Glasgow, this guide should give you a flavour of what the city has to offer its residents.
Glasgow sits at the heart of Scotland’s only metropolitan region of 1.8 million people, while the population of the greater Glasgow region is around 2.3 million – making up 41% of the entire population of Scotland.
Language: English is the main language with Scots, British Sign Language and Gaelic as recognised languages. Other languages spoken in the city including Spanish, Urdu, Mandarin and Polish. Strong numbers of foreign language speakers including Asian, Eastern European and Western European languages.
Currency: Pound Sterling (GDP)
Time Zone: UTC+00:00
Climate: Temperate. Glasgow benefits from long summer days with as much as 17 hours of sunlight. However, winter days tend to be much shorter and darker. There are on average 170 days of rainfall and between 15-20 days of snowfall in Glasgow.
Similar to the rest of the country, the weather in Glasgow can sometimes be unpredictable and it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day.
2. Working in Glasgow
No matter what career path you choose to pursue, Glasgow is one of the top places to work in the UK.
The city’s workforce combines the strong Scottish work ethic with Glaswegian friendliness of its residents. This had made it an attractive location and some of the biggest companies in Scotland have a base in Glasgow.
Glasgow has the largest economy in Scotland, with a GDP of 41.6 billion in 2013. Glasgow contributes approximately £20.74 billion GVA to the Scottish economy annually. 19,000 companies make their home in Glasgow, generating an annual turnover of £38 billion.
There are plenty of opportunities and there has never been a better time to work in Glasgow, with the number of vacancies advertised having risen by 52% since 2016.
Residents in Glasgow benefit from an average monthly take-home salary of £1,814which is higher than the UK average.
Formerly one of the world’s leading manufacturing hubs, Glasgow has moved away from a production-based economy to a service-based one, with up to 84% of jobs in the service sector.
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce recently identified six key sectors for the city: low carbon industries; financial and business services; life sciences; engineering; tourism, and education.
But the city is also developing in some of its newer growth sectors, such as software development and biotechnology. The tech sector in Scotland is worth £3.9bn with digital tech turnover per employee reaching £80,000.
Glasgow has particular strength in space tech, as the city rockets towards becoming a world leader. CBRE ranked Glasgow 2nd in the UK in its annual Tech Cities survey.
Glasgow is at the forefront of healthcare and innovation across the UK and Europe. Glasgow is also the biggest media hub in Scotland and has an excellent creative sector.
Tax and Employment Benefits
Employment benefits offered in Glasgow vary depending on your employer but are likely to include leave from work, sick pay, maternity pay and a pension.
The average working week for a full-time job is between 37 and 40 hours a week. Those working full-time are entitled to at least 28 days of paid holiday each year. If you work part-time, you are also entitled to paid holiday each year.
While it’s not compulsory, many organisations also close for public and bank holidays as an added incentive. Many bank holidays in Scotland are different to the rest of the UK.
If you’re pregnant, you may be eligible for maternity pay from your employer. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) allows you to take time off work both before and after your baby is born. SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks from when you take leave from your job. Your partner is also entitled to up to two weeks of paternity leave – in addition to another 26 weeks if you decide to return to work early.
If you are eligible, the government will pay you a State Pension when you reach the national retirement age – normally between 60-65 years old. However, the amount you’re eligible for depends on the number of years you have paid National Insurance from your salary in the UK.
The majority of people working in Scotland have tax and National Insurance payments automatically deducted from their weekly or monthly pay. The amount of Income Tax and National Insurance you pay depends on several factors including how much you earn.
If you are not a UK national, you will need to apply for a National Insurance number from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and give it to your employer.
3. Financial Services in Glasgow
The financial services industry in Scotland is booming, and Glasgow is no exception. One of Europe’s top 20 financial centres, there are 40,500 jobs related to the financial services centre sector in Glasgow. This makes up almost 10% of total employment in the city.
Financial services are a rapidly growing sector in Glasgow, with plenty of jobs and investment. Since the creation of the International Financial Services District (IFSD), there has been over £1 billion invested and more than 15,000 new jobs.
Glasgow is the location of choice for some of the biggest names in the sector. There are over 3000 companies operating in this sector.
Most of Glasgow’s finance sector is based around the IFSD. This includes companies like JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Barclays and BNP Paribas. Glasgow is a base for major global corporations in the financial and services sector, such as Barclays Wealth, Aon and others.
The second largest financial hub in Scotland, Glasgow’s main strengths lie in general insurance, asset administration, legal services and accountancy.
Scotland has a long and distinguished history in banking. You will find many long-established and newer challenger banks in Glasgow including The Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, Tesco Bank, TSB, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays.
Glasgow is also a base for many international banks such as the Bank of China, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Santander and State Bank of India.
With 8,000 people working within the banking field in Glasgow, the city is the perfect place to build your banking career.
Insurance and Pensions
Scotland has a significant concentration of life and pensions activity, accounting for 27% of employment in the sub-sector in Britain.
Glasgow is Scotland’s insurance hub, employing 8,500 people across hundreds of businesses.
Allianz, Axa, Zurich, Hiscox Plc, Aviva and Direct Line Insurance are just some of the big names located in Glasgow.
Asset servicing is a key growth area in Glasgow’s financial services industry. Scotland is now a leading European centre for asset servicing offering a comprehensive range of services, including: custody, securities servicing, investment accounting, performance measurement, trustee administration, shareholder services, compliance, client management and retail fund administration.
Three out of the top ten largest asset servicing organisations operate in Glasgow. They are BNP Paribas, JP Morgan and HSBC.
Scotland is a renowned centre of excellence in investment management with its origins dating back to the nineteenth century.
The sector encompasses a broad mix of large institutional and smaller businesses that deliver a wide variety of innovative investment services to institutional and personal clients around the world.
While this sector is smaller than that of Edinburgh, Glasgow maintains a high quality of asset management expertise.
Glasgow has a large community of professionals providing services to the financial services industry. There are over 13,000 people working in legal and accounting services, and over 4,500 in management consulting.
The UK has high quality professional and support services; it has the largest and most developed market in Europe for legal services, management consulting and accounting. These three sectors contributed £20.1bn, £14bn and £26.8bn respectively to UK output in 2017.
The Scottish legal sector is consistently strong. Corporate and commercial areas of law firms will continue to be busy, and in-house functions of financial sector companies will continue to grow.
Accounting and finance is also an area of expertise in Glasgow. Many leading companies have a presence in Glasgow or neighbouring city Edinburgh. The great bio-diversity of businesses ensures a steady flow of opportunity in this sector.
Scotland’s financial services industry benefits from an extensive chain of providers that deliver the wide spectrum of business services required by businesses operating in the Glasgow financial sector.
This includes companies offering services such as outsourcing, human resources, business consultancy, and technology.
With over 6,000 people working in this area in Glasgow, there are plentiful opportunities with a variety of companies supporting the financial sector.
Named a “fintech powerhouse” by Fintech Scotland, the digital tech sector in Glasgow is growing at a rapid pace. Over the past decade there has been over £37 million worth of investment in Scottish fintech and significant further investment is anticipated.
There are currently 12 fintech companies in Glasgow and many of the world’s largest financial institutions have technology teams located in Glasgow, such as JP Morgan’s Technology Centre.
The city also plays a key part in the development of the Scottish fintech industry. Strathclyde University was the first in the UK to offer a masters course in fintech.
The future of the Glasgow fintech sector is bright as Scotland aims to become one of the world’s top five fintech hubs. The next 12 months will see the emergence of a more broadly connected fintech ecosystem across Scotland and it is expected that 15,000 new roles will be created over the next 10 years.
4. Education in Glasgow
Scotland is famous for its first-class education system. It is one of the most highly educated countries in Europe and among the most well-educated in the world, with over 55% workforce educated to at least degree level.
The city’s excellent educational system is one of the driving forces behind its talented workforce. 46% of all Glaswegians in employment are educated to degree level, making the city’s workforce one of the best qualified in the UK.
Glasgow has a reputation for educational excellence and provides a wide range of options across all levels. The city’s institutions of higher and further education graduate around 20,000 individuals per annum ensuring a healthy talent pipeline.
Glasgow is home to four universities: the University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of the West of Scotland. The city also hosts the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
The University of Glasgow, one of the oldest in the world, is globally recognised as a top-class institution. Business schools at the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde are both triple accredited – only 1% of business schools worldwide hold this accreditation.
The Glasgow city region has the largest student population in Scotland and the second highest in the UK. More than 185,000 students from 140 countries live and study here.
Thousands of students graduate each year with qualifications directly relevant to the needs of the financial services industry. Glasgow also has the highest student retention rate of any city in the UK, with over half staying to build their careers in the city.
Further and Higher Education Colleges
There are 6 further and higher education colleges across the Glasgow city region offering a wide range of courses and diplomas.
Three are located in the city centre – City of Glasgow College, Glasgow Kelvin College and Glasgow Clyde College – and a further three colleges are in the wider Glasgow region – West College Scotland, South Lanarkshire College, New College Lanarkshire.
Independent and State Schools
Glasgow has a rich variety of renowned schools catering for a full range of educational needs, spanning the state and independent sectors.
The city council provides 149 primary schools and 29 secondary schools for children up to the age of 18. The city council has also undertaken a massive modernisation initiative, with nearly all schools in Glasgow newly built or renovated.
Glasgow also offers 14 independent schools, and three specialist schools; the Glasgow School of Sport, the Dance School of Scotland and the Glasgow Gaelic School.
Pre-school early learning and childcare
Pre-school early learning and childcare aims to encourage children aged between two and five years old to learn and develop in a caring and nurturing setting. All children can get a free part-time place at a council nursery, or funding towards a place at a private one.
You can find local nurseries and read about alternative childcare options for two to five-year olds on the Glasgow City Council’s website.
5. Living in Glasgow
The standards of living in Glasgow are consistently ranked among the best in the UK and the world. Glasgow was ranked 3rd highest in UK and 48th in the world for quality of life in 2018.
There are excellent transport, housing and living options in the city with something to suit all lifestyles and budgets.
Glasgow has a wide range of facilities and has more green space per mile than any other city in the UK with over 70 parks in and around the city.
As Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow has excellent transport links, both in the city and to the rest of the UK and world.
Not only is the city easy to navigate on foot but cyclists can enjoy more than 301km of cycle lanes connecting the city, which a great way to explore and get a feel for the city.
Glasgow is the only city in Scotland with an underground network. There is a frequently running and easy to use Subway system connecting different parts of the city.
Glasgow is served by two main railway stations, Central Station and Queen Street Station, and has the largest suburban rail network in the UK outside of London. There are also excellent rail links to the rest of the country with 8 trains per hour to Edinburgh and 23 trains per day direct to London, taking around 4hrs 30 mins.
Glasgow Airport is Scotland’s principal long-haul airport. You can fly direct to North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as frequent domestic flights.
Glasgow is also well connected by road. The main motorway route is the M8, connecting the city centre to the M74, M77 and M80.
Not only are there excellent facilities in Glasgow, it is also an affordable place to live in comparison to other cities in the UK. Living costs are 26% lower than London. In the Independent’s 2015 list of the Best Places in the UK to Make a Living, Glasgow placed 32 out of 64 in the cost of living rank.
Out of 20 major cities across the UK, Glasgow offers young professionals the highest level of disposable income. Expatistan ranks Glasgow as the 9th most expensive city out of 15 in the UK.
Comparison site Numbeo estimates a litre of milk costs £0.85 while a pint in your neighbourhood pub will come in at around £3.84. Two cinema tickets will cost about £20 in Glasgow and the average monthly gym membership costs £26.24.
The National Health Service (NHS) offers free healthcare services to people with a visa allowing them to live the UK for at least one year
You need to be registered with a GP to receive NHS treatment (you can find your nearest GP here).
Services covered include:
- Medical advice from a doctor
- Emergency and non-emergency medical treatment in a hospital
- Medicines prescribed by your GP
There also companies offering private healthcare and health insurance, which is more expensive but may lead to quicker, more comprehensive treatment and aftercare.
Dental care is provided by the NHS, with check-up appointments covered for those over 18. Additional dental treatment is not fully NHS funded and prices vary depending on the service and treatment required.
Private dental care is also available, with many dental practices in Glasgow offering both private and NHS services.
Whether you are looking to rent or buy a home in Glasgow, there is a wide variety of choice. Glasgow boasts an excellent range of housing options. From trendy apartments on the River Clyde to Victorian flats in Glasgow’s west end and easily commutable suburbs, there is something for everyone.
Popular areas include:
West End – made up of any area west of Charing Cross, Glasgow’s West End includes the sought-after areas of Dowanhill, Kelvingrove and Hyndland. The Finnieston area of Glasgow was voted the hippest place to live in Britain.
One of the most desirable parts of the city, there is a mix of large period houses and flats. Popular with students, professionals and families, there is something for everyone although this popularity can be reflected in the prices.
Further west of the city centre, places to keep an eye out for are Scotstoun, Knightswood and Anniesfield. These areas are attractive for buyers and renters alike, with a good balance of reputation and affordability.
North – Bearsden and Milngavie are some of the most sought-after areas outside of Glasgow city centre. Bearsden has the lowest social housing of any Scottish town and has featured in the top 10 wealthiest areas of the UK.
Both areas are popular spots for commuters who prefer less hustle and bustle and more green spaces.
City Centre – right in the heart of the city and one of Glasgow’s oldest areas, the Merchant City has a mix of modern flats with an abundance of bars, restaurants, and boutiques right on your doorstep.
Just a short walk from the city centre is Glasgow’s East End which has been undergoing a regeneration. Many homes in this area are purpose-built and more affordable for those starting on the property ladder.
South – areas located south of the River Clyde such as Whitecraigs and Giffnock in East Renfrewshire. These areas are perfect for those seeking detached houses and bungalows.
Giffnock has a wide variety of properties, lots of shops and restaurants within walking distance and excellent schooling.
Many choose to live outside the city, in the towns and villages from which the city is easily commutable.
Although prices in rural Britain have been falling in the last years, the cost of living in the Scottish countryside is still up to 40% higher than in many British cities. The reason for this is that living in remote areas of Scotland is more expensive when it comes to the costs of commuting, clothing, food, and household goods.
The cost of buying property in Glasgow is around 72% lower than London, 9% lower than Manchester and 11% lower than Edinburgh.
While most properties are sold through estate agents or solicitors, you can also buy privately from the owner – though you will still need the help of a solicitor to do the legal work.
Zoopla.com and rightmove.co.uk are popular resources for those looking to buy property in Glasgow and the surrounding areas.
Price levels for property in Glasgow vary but the average sale price is as follows:
Detached – £265,113
Semi-detached – £167,665
Terraced – £171,760
Flat – £134,209
Glasgow also offers very competitive rental costs compared to other UK cities.
The average monthly rental cost is £771 , and the average monthly cost per number of rooms is as follows:
- 1 bed flat – £583
- 2 bed flat – £794
- 3 bed flat – £1,037
- 4 bed flat – £1,532
Popular resources for finding rental properties in Glasgow include:
Most rental properties are furnished flats, though houses and unfurnished properties can also be found.
Many letting agencies and private landlords will usually require a deposit, which is returned at the end of the tenancy.
It is also worth noting that most rental properties in Glasgow usually do not include utility bills, Wi-Fi or council tax within the monthly rent. These are additional costs.
All residential properties in Scotland are subject to Council Tax. Council Tax is a local tax, with annual receipts contributing directly to the funding of local services. In Scotland, all residential properties are assigned to one of eight bands (from A to H), based upon the value of that property.
Glasgow council also a range of discounts and exemptions for those who qualify. More information on Council can be found at the Glasgow City Council website.
6. Moving to Glasgow from Abroad
Glasgow is an attractive location for people from all over the world and is known for being an extremely welcoming city to move to.
The fDi Intelligence Quality of Life ranks Glasgow higher than Los Angeles and Rome. Glasgow benefits from shorter commuting times, lower living costs and better work-life balance than other cities around the world.
With excellent national and international transport links, Glasgow is well connected to the rest of the globe. North America can be reached in as little as five hours and mainland Europe in over an hour.
Meetup.com, InterNations.org and Facebook groups are great ways to connect with other expats in Glasgow and find out about events.
Visa and immigration requirements
Scotland is governed by the same visa rules and legislation as the rest of the United Kingdom, though there are several special business visa categories to ensure Scotland remains a competitive destination for investment.
If you are from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you will need a visa to live and work in Scotland. The UK Government website allows you work out which visa you require based on your nationality and reason for coming to the UK.
There are a number of options open to people who require a UK visa. The two most common categories are Tier 1 and Tier 2. “Skilled worker visas” (Tier 2) address the needs of skilled laborers and employees. There’s also a separate sub-category for intra-company transfers. “High value workers” fall into the Tier 1 category.
The process will need to be started at least 3 months prior to your move to Glasgow and it is worth noting that there can be substantial fees.
More information on the different UK visa classifications and how to apply can be found on the UK Government website.
EU Nationals working in Scotland & Brexit
The Scottish Government continues to welcome EEA nationals in Scotland as the status of Europeans living and working in Scotland has not changed.
However, if you want to stay in the UK beyond 31 December 2020, you need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme will be fully open by the end of March 2019 and you will have until 30 June 2021 to apply. If you have been a resident in the UK for more than 5 years you will be eligible for settled status. If you have been a resident for less than 5 years you will be eligible for pre-settled status.
In the meantime, it remains open to EEA nationals and their family members living in Scotland to apply for documentation from the UK Home Office that certifies their right to live and work in the UK. This can be done by applying for an EEA Registration Certificate (known as an EEA Residence Card), a Permanent Residence Card, or even British nationality depending upon your circumstances.
It is recommended that you sign up for email alerts from the Home Office regarding EU Nationals working in Britain for the most up to date information.
7. Culture in Glasgow
Named “the UK’s Coolest City” by National Geographic Traveller magazine, you will never be short of things to do in Glasgow.
The city centre’s Style Mile is a hotspot for shopping lovers and Experian’s annual retail vitality index has named Glasgow as offering the best shopping in the UK outside of London for several years.
Glasgow also has a thriving food and drinks scene and some of the best nightlife in Scotland. Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music – the only one in Scotland – and there can be as many as 130 music events taking place in the city each week. 
There are 20 museums and galleries throughout Glasgow, most with free entry. There include the Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery, The People’s Palace, the Hunterian Museum and The Riverside Museum. Other great places to visit in Glasgow are the Science Centre, Glasgow Green the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis.
Sports and Events
Glasgow is famous for its excellent sports events and for being home to local, national and international sports teams across a vast number of sports.
The city hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games to a resounding success. In 2020 Glasgow will be one of the host cities of the UEFA Euro 2020 football tournament.
Throughout the year, Glasgow hosts a number of festivals and special events, including Celtic Connections, The Glasgow Film Festival, Glasgow International Comedy Festival and Glasgow Mela.
Outside of Glasgow
While there is plenty to do in the city, Glasgow provides an excellent base to explore the rest of Scotland too. Some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, like Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, can be reached in as little as an hour.
Scotland’s other cities, such as Edinburgh, Dundee and Stirling can be easily reached by train, bus or car and each offer a range of things to do and see, including the newly opened V&A museum in Dundee.
While Glasgow may be Scotland’s second city, it certainly is not second best. Combining excellent facilities and infrastructure, world-class talent and some of Scotland’s best companies, Glasgow is fast becoming one of the top places to live and work in the UK.
With over 300 years of expertise in financial services, Glasgow is the perfect place to develop your career and to work for some fantastic companies.
Glasgow has something for all tastes and lifestyles with a thriving cultural scene and many desirable places to live.
But one of Glasgow’s biggest attributes is its residents, who are some of the friendliest in the whole of the UK. The pride Glaswegians have for their city is infectious. Anyone moving there will soon be sharing this same passion for life in Glasgow.
Hopefully you will now have all the necessary information to make a smooth transition into Glasgow life.
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