Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Scottish Retail Consortium head of policy:

WHILST it is welcome news that many non-essential shops will be able to open on Monday, customers experiences will be very different. Consumers will have to adapt to physical distancing restrictions and are encouraged to wear face coverings to help keep themselves and others safe.

It’s likely to be sometime until things return to normal as retailers prioritise ensuring colleagues and customers are safe. The positive news is high street shops can learn lessons from grocery and pharmacy businesses who have traded in lockdown.

However, re-opening is only the start of the process of recovery. Scottish non-essential shops have missed out on £20 million a day in lost revenue during lockdown.

We’d expect shops to continue to see lower takings in the short term due to a lack of confidence from consumers and businesses. For example, last week following England’s re-opening of non-essential shops the average weekday footfall was down 50% compared to the same period the previous year, whilst the weekend footfall was down 60% compared to the same period the previous year.

That’s why we believe there is an urgent case for short-term economic stimulus from government, as well as a pause in new initiatives which create costs for businesses.

The National:

Looking into the future, it’s clear retailers have struggled in this crisis because of the pressures caused by a changing industry, weak economic growth, and a seemingly endless series of public policy measures.

Government must reflect on the number and nature of the burdens it is adding to businesses, or else accept the consequence will be fewer businesses operating from fewer sites employing fewer people.

An obvious place to start would be to reconsider the impact of non-domestic rates on businesses operating from property – especially in the context of the changed economic conditions following this crisis.


Gordon Robertson, director of communications at Edinburgh airport, Scotland’s busiest airport:

AVIATION in general has been impacted badly by Covid-19. We were one of the first to be hit by it in terms of impact and the effects will last for a long time.

We had almost 15 million passengers last year and this year will certainly have less than five million. We’ve not had passengers at all since March and now we would normally have around 45,000 passengers each day – we currently have about 600.

Even with the most optimistic forecast, next year is going to be between eight and ten million passengers; so we are still five million less than where we were in 2019 and I don’t think we are going to get back there for maybe two or three years, so it is a very bleak picture.

At the moment the recovery is being prolonged by the quarantine measures put in place by the UK Government, which the Scottish Government supports.

The National:

That does not allow airlines or ourselves to plan so it is pushing the recovery back and we think that will cost us more jobs. The Foreign Office guidance is still not to fly so we need that and quarantine to be lifted before we start to see recovery.

For us, quarantine would have made sense if it had been done at the beginning of lockdown but it doesn’t make sense to us now when everybody in Europe and the UK is coming out of it. We disagree with the timing and we are not too clear about the public health benefit. We are perplexed given the impact on the economy and jobs.

The social distancing measures that all airports have put in place are quite difficult as well because they really reduce our capacity.

We have gone to great lengths to make sure the airport is safe and passengers are confident about using it, which is very important, but that does reduce our capacity to handle passengers so we need to manage that as the recovery begins.

There are some domestic flights happening but the situation is really difficult, as can be seen from the last couple of days, with handling agents and airlines all talking about redundancies.

We have been in consultation with our workforce about restructuring the business as well so we are going to see redundancies, too. We are still negotiating with the unions as to how many jobs we can save but again, it is a bleak picture at the moment.

Airlines have taken a massive hit and passenger confidence has taken a big hit. If the economy is down and people don’t have jobs and less money in their pockets, that will suppress demand as well.

Riddell Graham, director of industry and destination development at VisitScotland:

IT is important to stress the impact it has had to date. For the comparable period last year, which is April to June, we brought £1.6 billion into the economy of Scotland and we were on track to have an even better year, so it has had a hugely negative impact.

From the middle of March until the end of June, the revenue from tourism is effectively zero. There has been a massive impact in terms of income and there are significant redundancies in the pipeline, as well as the closure of some attractions and accommodation.

There are significant concerns at the moment from the hotel sector, notably those in the cities where occupancy is very low and where they are highly dependent on business events and events like those at the SEC. Even hotels with leisure facilities and who cater for weddings are struggling because they are not able to open their full range of facilities.

The National:

Will things go back to normal or will they change permanently? Eventually there will be a return to some kind of normality but the length of time that takes will depend on a number of factors, such as whether we have a second wave and the availability of a vaccine.

Initially, the experience will be very different to what folk have been used to. The usual eating and drinking places are closed, attractions are closed, public toilets are closed – although I think much of that is going to be changing over the next four or five weeks.

What then that looks like in 12 months’ time is a big question. We launched a national tourism strategy just before the pandemic kicked in and along with our partners we have had a review of it to see the impact the virus has had.

What is interesting is that the review suggests the strategy’s focus on responsible tourism and sustainability will still be a very strong focus and, in fact, if we get our act together, Scotland could be the leader in that for the rest of the world.

The original themes of that strategy have just simply been amplified by the virus, so sustainability will remain a priority. The whole health and safety issue is still obviously going to be very strong and so is well-being, mental health and people getting away from it all and being rejuvenated.

Community engagement is clearly an issue at the moment with some communities concerned about the return of visitors. Community engagement needs to be a part of tourism, maybe in a way that it has not been up until now, and those areas that have engaged with communities have shown a good example for others to follow.

I also think there should be more collaboration so people are not working in isolation.

Another big issue is quality over quantity. The very strong message that is coming through is that those that embrace a quality offering are going to do very well.

Although digital technology has filled a gap, our view is that conferences and meetings will definitely return in some form – probably from the back end of next year. That is going to be really important to cities because they are heavily reliant on them.

We are keen to kick off our marketing plan as quickly as we can to try and get an element of recovery this year that forms the basis for next year.

The way we are planning marketing is that it will initially focus on the Scottish market and how Scottish people can experience Scotland, maybe in a way they have not done for years or have never done.

Then we will open that up to the wider domestic market, as obviously England is a very important market for us, then eventually the international market – although, given the quarantine position and flights, we don’t envisage that happening until the beginning of next year at the very earliest.

It could well be that some hotels don’t re-open for the rest of this year, and it may be next year before there is any kind of vague return to some kind of semblance of normality.

Mark Mackie, CEO of Regular Music:

IT’S not looking great for the short term. I can’t really envisage any shows this year. Like everybody else we have our fingers crossed but it is out of our control. We can’t do socially reduced concerts – it’s just not possible on the margins most tours work. If there is only 30 or 40 % occupancy in venues it does not stack up financially and the atmosphere for the artists and punters is very odd, so I am not really looking at socially distanced concerts. I am not investing any time in them.

As far as drive-in concerts are concerned, I think it is an amusing stunt but these don’t really stack up financially either, and also the experience is a strange one. 

Fair play to the people that are doing it and maybe there are some jobs for the stage crew and for some of the artists, but I don’t think many places will want their staff to come out of furlough to do drive-in concerts. It’s not worth it – although, if it gives some people some jobs over the summer, that’s to be applauded.

The National:

Furlough is due to stop at the end of October and if the live music industry is not up and running then we hope the government would look to extend the furlough for certain sectors, like ours and the theatre.

Nobody wants to be furloughed, no one wants their staff to be furloughed – but there is no point in coming out of furlough if there is nothing to work on. If certain sectors are not allowed to restart maybe we can afford for those sectors to get special dispensation and get an extended furlough. The live music sector pays its way. In the good times it is a good earner for the economy and treasury so we are not putting good money after bad here.

A lot of venues I know are just surviving on furlough at the moment, and it will be very tough for them if it is not extended after October and the situation has not changed and they can’t open up. That would be Armageddon time. And once a venue closes it is very difficult to get it back.

I am sure people will want to get back to live concerts. There is no doubt about it. It is a great experience that can’t be replicated. I am not worried about the audiences going away. It might make some think about supporting their local theatres and venues more than they did in the past. They might realise they could have lost them and go to an extra couple of shows a year.

Mo Clark, director of Kained Holdings and owner of The Finnieston, Lebowskis, Porter and Rye and The Crafty Pig:

HOSPITALITY is struggling to find a new normal between now and when we can actually get back to what we are good at. 

The core of hospitality is allowing people to be social and what we are having to put in place for a period of time is kind of going against the grain. Keeping people at a distance and putting screens up is putting barriers up, which is exactly what we are not about.

I would love to say we are trying to get back to what we are used to as soon as possible, but for the interest and safety of everybody, customers and staff alike, we can’t jump at that return to normality too quickly. We have to feel our way through this new anti-social hospitality that we are going to be left with for a period of time.

The National:

There is also the point of whether we can open up under certain levels of restrictions. It’s not going to be the same industry or environment for a while until people are allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder in groups when bars are busy. We are not going to have the same experience that hospitality is famed for in this country for a while yet I don’t think.

With regards to the two-metre social distancing restriction, if that does not change there is a massive chance that we are not going to open our doors, and we are not alone. We could not open up a viable enterprise with two metres distancing, so we are hoping and praying they will be more realistic and bring it down to one metre plus like England. Getting down to the one metre mark is a bit more like what people are used to and you can open up a business and operate like that.

I get that the First Minister is cautious and a lot of people respect her for that, me included, but business still has to be operational and society has to get back to a level of normality.

I am hoping the two-metre rule will be amended. I think it will be ... it has to be.

Hospitality can’t be protected from something like this in the future. Given the nature of viruses and the business we are in, where people are in close proximity to one another, this industry is going to be one of the biggest and hardest hit if this happens again, unfortunately. That is the cold, hard reality of it.

What we can do is make sure that we are not the front and centre of it spreading in the first place. We are so close to customers all the time that I think heightened cleanliness and sanitising processes will continue long after we forget Covid-19. I think it has to.

However, I don’t think face masks and screens will have to stay forever, as my interpretation is that they are an interim measure while we are susceptible.
I would not like to bet on it but I would like to think that within a year we will go back to no face coverings and a relaxation of the need for screens in shops and bars. That would be in line with what people are saying about getting a vaccine found and manufactured and widely distributed as well, but it certainly won’t be this year.

It doesn’t mean we should drop our guard, it doesn’t mean we should drop the wiping of the tables between every single guest and making sure the place is as clean and sanitised as it can be. But it will be a good thing for everybody when we can get rid of the face-masks and the guards and the gloves, because it does make it an impersonal experience which is alien to hospitality.

Rev Dr George Whyte, principal clerk of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland:

IT has been a difficult time. The Scottish death rate has increased, not just with Covid, and a lot of our ministers have been working very hard with funerals and explaining that only limited numbers can come. 

Beyond this there will be a need to remember and for people to come together to talk about the person they have lost. That will be another set of challenges for us – how do we commemorate people when the chance comes around. We are also involved in discussions about how we commemorate as a nation and say thanks for what was done in health and care and remember all that we have lost and the terrible damage.

There is a backlog of postponed weddings and there will be mental health issues and relationship issues to deal with too.

The National:

However, by and large our churches have responded remarkably well to the lockdown. A lot of them are doing online worship of various styles and the ones that are would say there are more people logging on to their worship than normally come on a Sunday – sometimes quite substantially more. There are churches who now have connections far beyond their parish. One church in Edinburgh has just added a member from Canada and has a couple of people in Italy that worship with them.

There is another church in Hamilton that is now calling itself Parish Plus, as it has been able to involve people from elsewhere in their Sunday worship through zoom. There are networks of people being created by this and what we have realised is that we cannot go back just to having physical worship.

On Friday the moderator of the General Assembly led a webinar for 600 people about online worship and what lessons we have learned from this that we will take into the future.

When we are allowed to use our churches fully without restrictions, we will still be doing a whole lot of online worship – that will be a new feature of Church of Scotland life going forward. We have learned so much out of this and got in touch with a whole range of new people. It has put our life much more out there and we have learned that people matter more than buildings. 

Some of our country parishes that may have insisted in the past that they need to keep the two church buildings are now finding they are worshipping in one online space and it’s alright. 

They might have gone to different buildings before but suddenly their priorities are different so it is bringing a bit of change in these places as well. People are experiencing a life that is shared and not principally about bricks and mortar.

When we get back to normal we will still have the problem that we have too many buildings inherited from the 19th century and we know we need to do something about that. The emergency has made us all realise what matters.

We are concerned about those not digitally connected and churches have come up with a variety of solutions to that, with some places recording services on DVDs or printing them out and putting them through the door.

Drylaw Church in Edinburgh uses Zoom for their worship and has found that those who are not online can join in on landline phones. They have had up to 17 people joining in weekly who previously would have struggled to get to the building.

It is not as if we are going to settle to be an online church, but we are going to have a church that is both physical and online in the future. We are learning from those who have found a particular talent for it and who have been pioneering what works and what is good practice.

The challenge will be when we are allowed physical gatherings and have to calibrate our position for both kinds of church.  It is a communal religion and needs to be about genuine encounters. We have to think how we continue to value and nurture that.

Communal worship for extended groups may happen by July 23 but we don’t know what kind of mitigations there will be. The two-metre rule is quite drastic and may mean a decision between doing a service for a small number of people or continuing online.


Professor Leigh Sparks of Stirling University, chair of the Scotland’s Towns Group for the Centre for Scottish Public Policy:

“SCOTLAND has 480-odd towns. Some places will suffer badly. How do we revive those? We’ve got to sort some things out.

“If you look at what we’ve seen so far in England in terms of the return of retail, you’re getting football but it’s nowhere near what it was. Retailers and places have to build confidence in their consumers, because things are going to look different, they’re going to feel different, it’s not going to be what it was, not as slick.

“A lot of people have been furloughed and people are worried about the future. How much money are they going to have to spend?

“We’re going to see trade levels below what they were before, and not everything is going to be open as it was. We need to ask what we really want in our towns and how we want them to operate. The situation before the pandemic wasn’t perfect and the idea of going back to that is rather bad when you think about things like vacancies and hoardings. How do we make better spaces? How do we make them more inclusive?

The National:

“Boris Johnson wants people to get out shopping and get back to a normal way of life. For a lot of people, that way of life wasn’t very good. We need a rethink from a social perspective and an economic perspective about that.

“The playing field for retail isn’t level – you could use a digital tax to address, because online retail doesn’t pay its fair share.

“We need people living, working and playing in town centres. The more we can do to get different groups into those places, the better, but we’re likely to see big offices, or parts of big offices, taken away as more people work from home. Hopefully they’ll be using local conveniences and amenities more, so that might be a benefit to some towns. Many places have already had a boost during lockdown, and people have started asking if they need to travel for work and other things, or can they have a better quality of life this way?”


Euan Leitch, director of umbrella group Built Environment Forum Scotland, which represents cultural heritage sites:

“HERITAGE is a long-term game. The short game is working out what will remain open and what is financially viable. The question of whether or not some heritage sites will be sold to private buyers, with the loss of public access, is very much a live one.

“As an organisation and as a sector, we’re trying to think beyond Phase Four, but we don’t yet know the full severity of the economic impact of coronavirus. Not knowing what the future holds for the next six months is proving the biggest barrier to that planning.

“We have an economic model that’s reliant on visitors and reliant on tourism. If that’s disrupted, it makes things very difficult. The independent museums sector needs visitors, local authority museums need that cash to stay open. It’s not clear if they’ll get what they need.

The National:

“Lockdown has taught us that people appreciate their environment, and the built environment is part of that. Whether it looks fancy or not, whether it’s old or built 20 years ago, that needs to be maintained not only for its own sake, but to help us address climate change issues. If you’re not bringing in the income you need to do that, it’s a problem.

“Until we know how visitors are going to behave, whether they’re going to come out and in what numbers, we don’t know what the long-term economic picture is. Some of the planning about reopening is looking at a reduction to 20% of expected visitors. That’s not financially viable for most places, unless they’ve got large reserves, which not everyone has.

“Operations are based on being able to sell tickets. We’re learning that tourism might not be the most stable peg to base that on.There’s the domestic market, but are the public in a position to open their pockets? This may become a state issue.

“If we value cultural heritage, it will need state investment to sustain some of it.”

Dr Phoebe Cochrane, Scottish Environment LINK 

WITHIN a matter of months life has changed considerably for us as we begin to embrace our “new normal”.

The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the life we led before, the people we cherish and the kind of life we wish to lead once this crisis blows over.
With less cars on the road and cleaner air, it has also got us questioning why we ever accepted our “previous normal” and with it the dangerously rapid decline of our nature. Since the 1960s the use of plastics and our heavy reliance on fossil fuels has grown to take centre place in almost everything 
we possess.

From the pens we write with to the protective coating in our canned foods, to the numerous children’s toys and household gadgets throughout our homes – add to this the global surge in yet more single-use plastics as cafes, restaurants and pubs turn to providing takeaway services in response to the crisis. It is safe to say plastic is everywhere and is going nowhere fast.

Plastic is a major source of pollution. It pollutes at every stage of its lifecycle from the oil and gas extracted to produce it, right through to when it ends up in our soil, rivers and beaches, and by default in the fish and livestock we consume.

The National:

According to a recent report by the UN Environment Programme, plastics make up as much as 95 percent of the marine litter found on coastlines, sea surface, and the ocean floor. Anyone who has followed the Blue Planet series will know exactly what this means for our waters and the precious life these sustain.

Sadly, things look set to get worse. As the pandemic takes hold, streets and beaches are becoming littered with disposable masks and gloves and single-use plastics are getting a new lease on life.

In Europe alone each year, over 25 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated. Of this, less than a third (30%) is collected to be recycled. The rest is destined for our already burgeoning landfill sites, incinerators, or to developing countries who are paid to deal with it – and not always with the means nor the necessary checks required.

The appetite for change, however, is there. Scotland can and should do more to minimise its reliance on plastics. A recent survey undertaken by Survation on behalf of Scottish Environment LINK, a coalition of leading environmental agencies in Scotland, found that almost three quarters of Scots (74%) agreed that wherever possible the Government should only allow materials that are practicably and safely recyclable to be sold in Scotland. 

Almost all of the people surveyed (90%) believed that producers and retailers have a responsibility for the environmental impact of their products and as many as 80% support a ban on all environmentally harmful items where there are practical re-usable alternatives.

Growing levels of pollution and the alarming decline of biodiversity as the aftermath of our reliance on fossil fuels can no longer be “our normal”.

The pandemic has been a tough lesson for us all. It has also allowed us to see the status quo is not necessarily the way forward. That the rapid decline of the health of our nature and everything it helps to sustain is not a done deal. 

That the “normal” we have got used to is not working and that now is not too late to think of a “new normal”, which is good for us and our precious and only planet.

This difficult period presents us with an opportunity to rethink and reshape how we live, consume and the type of world we wish to see in the future. A world we all deserve – before it’s too late.


Stewart Stevenson MSP:

MY experience of social isolation has certainly not meant being cut off from the world.

Being at home has saved me from about 12 to 14 hours a week travelling. But the workload has also risen. I have now participated in 28 virtual Parliamentary Committee meetings in two months. Over the same period in the previous three years, I have twice had 21 committee meetings and once had 15.
And that’s only one measure of increased workload.

Perhaps unlike most others, I am fitter in body and mind. Yes, I have missed being with other people and the gossip that comes with that but online is OK. I started using video-conferencing more than 25 years ago so for me, no big change.

I was invited by the National to write about being classified as vulnerable – I am now well over 70. That same day I was classified as vulnerable became the first day of my writing a daily diary which I publish at Today was my 100th edition, and tomorrow I will have written over 120,000 words. Various of these writings have been carried in five publications.

The National:

That’s helped clear the mind. And shown me that writing a book happens one day at a time.

Each day I have scheduled exercise. So far I have walked 430 miles and have spent about seven and half hours on the rowing machine at about 40 strokes a minute. I haven’t been so bodily fit for decades. My waist has shrunk while my weight has stayed constant.

I have a Zoom meeting with my non-political pals every two weeks. All this adds up to good news.

But the psychological phenomenon of ennui now engages me. I may have got my life back. A good preparation for retirement next year at the age of 75. But there is a creeping sense of sameness closing in around me.

I have been exceptionally fortunate compared to many of our citizens.

I have learned quite a lot about myself. And enjoy my own company a little more than I used to.

Like almost everyone, I look forward to a hug or two from friends and family.

Mixed news.

But as we say in the North East, chaving awa.


Glasgow club founder and music promoter Donald MacLeod:

I AM an optimist, not a pessimist, and I do believe the Scottish Government has done a good job up to a point, but this sector needs more and if they stand by social distancing they will be social distancing themselves from a lot of voters.

At the moment we are closed and as long as there is social distancing in place of any form then we are shut. Our business, the entertainment sector, can’t operate. We need some clarity, we need to be brave I think. In Switzerland they are opening up to 1000 capacity. There are other places opening up.

Are we being too careful? I think so. I think the virus has run its course as we are not seeing the massive spikes after the BLM demos that we should have by now. That suggests the virus could be weakening.

The National:

We need to get rid of the fear and paranoia. Remove these guidelines and restrictions now instead of pussyfooting around by waiting one week, then two weeks then moving a metre. It’s too late – sorry, we have moved on. Just lift them and if there is going to be a second wave then, in my view, we will know about it before winter sets in and we can be better prepared for it.

If we don’t have a strong economy we don’t have a strong NHS, councils will have to slash their staff, furloughed staff will be unemployed. That is happening as we speak right across all sectors and none more so than hospitality and entertainment. This is Scotland’s biggest employer and it is being treated shabbily, it’s being treated disgracefully.

Remove all the restrictions and get business back. They were quick shutting the country down and should be equally quick opening it up. There isn’t a gig in Britain that can operate under social distancing measures.

We are looked at as the pariahs, it seems to me. Night clubs and live venues are all loved and liked for putting on live entertainment and providing somewhere safe for kids to go to, but when something like this comes along we are hammered.

We have got to go back to the norm with no social distancing. It is the killer for businesses, whether two metres or one.

I want to see more clarity, more assurance that they do intend to get us open and we are not going to be sitting adrift waiting on a vaccine that could take up to four years to develop.

In two weeks’ time if there has not been an explosion of infection in England with millions of people intermingling, then do you think we can safely say there is not going to be one and move forward?

I am hoping that in October we can look at re-opening the Garage and the Cathouse. If not, we will look at in January and I hope that we will be open by Easter next year. It would be a tragedy if places like mine and above, like the Hydro and The Barrowlands, if they don’t re-open. It they don’t re-open along with city halls and theatres there would be a cultural vacuum in Scotland and that would be a big vote changer.

The Government has been very good up to a point but when it has come to the crux on live entertainment, theatres and clubs they have been way behind the curve and are not giving the reassurances that we need. Why have no social distancing for kids in schools when they go back in August and yet that can’t happen in nightclubs or bars, restaurants, wedding venues or hotels?