Post-lockdown priority should be to get visitors a bed for the night

THE COLIN CAMPBELL COLUMN

Hotels in the Highlands and across Scotland are already going bust, with the loss of many jobs.

Guest house owners are counting the cost of investing in businesses which they believed would bring in a steady and reliable income.

And B&B operators who have spent money on bringing their properties up to the required standard are also seeing their hopes and ambitions become as empty as their expensively refurbished rooms.

And what are politicians doing to support them?

Last week the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford enthusiastically endorsed a sign at the border which told future potential tourists from England and Wales to f*** off. His actions were publicised from Land’s End to LLandudno and everywhere in between.

And now in her “post lockdown” stategy Nicola Sturgeon has placed hotels, guest houses and B&Bs at the end of the queue for reopening, in “phase 3, the same category as pubs.

gellions
No-one knows when pubs will reopen and how they’ll work.

How can anyone equate the coronavirus risk from a reopened B&B or guest house to that of a reopened pub?

How can anyone say the same level of virus risk will be present in a place where people go to drink and socialise as it will be in a place where they go to sleep and snore?

There may be increased difficulty in reopening hotels but with inevitably slimmed down staffing, “social distancing” should not be too difficult to enforce. And as for guests, all they have to do is collect a key and go to a room.

That’s hardly the same as glamming up and heading over to publand for a night on the tiles.

VisitScotland have coined a new slogan DreamNowVisitLater. But “Later” could well be far too late. As part of their campaign to attract visitors in the months ahead they have also circulated scenic photos of the most beautiful parts of the Highlands.

They might as well disperse pictures of a wet weekend in Wigan if there’s nowhere for people to stay.

We don’t know when “phase 3” will take effect. But the hospitality industry, where mass redundancies are liable to be implemented in August when the fully-funded government furlough scheme runs out, does not have time on its side.

guest
Hotels, guest houses and B&Bs need to get back in business before there is nothing of the tourist industry left.

Sturgeon and co should in particular be bending over backwards to get the key elements of the tourist industry – rooms and beds – open for visitors again.

Many people in other parts of the country are probably itching to get away from it all for a break after what they’ve gone through. Rather than be completely decimated the Highland tourist industry could still cash in to some extent, and many jobs could be saved.

We’ll have to wait and see what level of flexibility Sturgeon and her advisers will apply. But placing somewhere that offers a bed for the night in the same category as a potentially overcrowded boozer does not make any obvious sense.

Why the gap in the Coronavirus Gathering Place – is the Tilting Pier going in the middle?

JUST what IS happening with the Coronavirus Gathering Place?

A revised plan appeared for it on Friday. Instead of a continuous wall there’s now a gap in the centre, with stretches of wall on either side.

What’s the gap for? Are they going to put the Tilting Pier in the middle?

tilting use
The ill-fated Tilting Pier preceded the even worse-fated Coronavirus Gathering Place.

Ok, let’s assume they’re not. But in truth nothing would surprise me anymore about this infinitely mishandled shambles.

The council hurriedly withdrew the new-look plan. Apparently it had been made public  by mistake – yet another mistake.

And there the matter rests for now.

So what is the new plan for the CVGP? Will it need new planning approval? Or as a correspondent said to us on Saturday, are they just intending to sweep it all through and blame the virus for a lack of more information and discussion?

With the council pleading poverty as never before, claiming they face an £80milion budget shortfall, even the most ardent proponents of spending £300,000 to concrete over and destroy a natural, beautiful part of the Ness riverside must surely be having their doubts about it.

At some point in the top echelons of the council the reality must surely hit home that the new hole-in-the-wall Coronavirus Gathering Place is a lost cause which should be quietly left to expire.

Nationwide clapping nights are now clapped-out

THE woman whose idea it was to push for Thurday night clapping sessions in support of key workers has now said it’s time to call a halt.

Annemarie Plas is probably right. A well-intentioned and enthusiastically-backed initiative has now become clapped out.

The supportive gesture has been well made. But that hasn’t stopped some people keeping it going. A reader last week emailed to say some folk on his street weren’t only clapping, they were still beating the living daylights out of frying pans and other kitchen utensils.

It sounded more like the start of a riot than a round of applause.

clapping
Well-intentioned gesture has run its course.

The “clap for carers” sessions were acknowledged by care workers in Inverness nursing homes. But they weren’t exactly bowled over by the noisy level of appreciation. It would wrong to say they were cynical about it.

But those I talk to are doubtful whether their new status as unsung heroes will last.

And they believe that before too long they will return to being the underpaid, under-appreciated poor relations of the care service.

That’s the feeling as far as I can judge. And I’m afraid it takes more than someone banging on a frying pan to disperse it.

No early rush back to school makes sense

THE announcement that schools in Scotland won’t reopen until August pleased parents I know – it’s what they’d been hoping for.

In fact if schools reopened in June, as is the case in England, they’d probably have kept their two primary school age children at home anyway.

Not solely because of concerns about the coronavirus, but because they were doubtful about the value of them returning in a rush to school to a confusing and potentially chaotic situation, when the summer holidays are looming anyway.

Give heads and teachers and education officials time to properly work out the socially-distanced “new normal” that will apply in the classrooms in the months ahead was their view. That’s a big challenge, but it should be sorted out to some kind of acceptable level by August.

schools
Scottish schools will have till August to plan their future layout.

A starting date for returning to school in 10 weeks or so seems sensible.

Meanwhile, the feeling is that the children haven’t lost out badly during the lockdown.

Through online link-ups they’ve been given a steady supply of schoolwork to do and tasks to perform, and they’ve found it interesting and a new kind of challenge.

Their parents have no time for media criticism about some “lazy” teachers not wanting to go back to work. As far as they’re concerned, the teachers have done a fine job in maintaining regular contact with their pupils, a new way of operating which must in itself have placed a lot of pressure on them.

The youngsters will be glad to get back to a fine school they both enjoy being part of to see their friends in August. But lockdown “doom and gloom” – for them it hasn’t existed.

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