Empty city centre, Telford Steet buzzes, as the jobs threat rises

by Colin Campbell

FOUR days ago Inverness MP Drew Hendry said he had received “hundreds of emails” from constituents urging him to intervene in the American race riots. At the time we suggested it seemed somewhat implausible that Drew Hendry should be considered the obvious go-to man by local people demanding fundamental change in US society. However there is one deluge of emails that Yankee Doodle Hendry SHOULD be getting.

That is, from people demanding that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP government stop dragging their heels and get people back to work.

j high
More activity now in 100 yards of Telford Street than there is in the entire city centre.

Last Thursday, there were conflicting fortunes for two major Inverness stores.

A number of staff members at Debenhams in the Eastgate Centre were told they were being made redundant.

While Currys in the Telford Retail Park reopened for business.

j currys use
Currys…back in action.

Which set of employees is now more reassured and confident in mind and body?

In fact the question doesn’t need to be asked because Debenhams staff affected have already spoken about their level of distress at losing their jobs, which is not in the least surprising. Because that is the impact redundancy has on people.

At the moment what happened at Debenhams could be reported on and discussed in its own right, because the deluge of business closures and redundancies hasn’t struck yet.

Debenhams shutdown blow…staff made redundant.

But the way things are going, all too soon it will strike.

Some clear facts are now emerging from the fear and confusion caused by the coronavirus. And one is that the chances of it causing serious health problems to people under 40, even if they do contract it, are fractionally, microscopically small.

At the same time, as things stand the chances of many working people under 40 losing their jobs as the result of covid-19 is huge.

And the longer their stores and businesses remain closed the higher it gets.

The main commercial hub of the Highland capital is the city centre, isn’t it?

j lidl use
No Lidl closure… a Telford Street hive of activity.

Not just now it isn’t. It’s moved to an area of 100 yards along Telford Street. With Curry’s open again and Lidl’s buzzing away nearby there’s more retail activity there at the moment than there is in High Street, Church Street, Academy Street, Union Street and Academy Street combined.

Why is that? Is Telford Street a virus-free zone?

Meanwhile, care home workers I know personally have been going into work as normal for the past three months. Each morning they don’t take a deep breath, gird their loins and brace themselves for what’s ahead. They just turn up as required for work and get on with it.

And there have been no reports of any care worker among the hundreds in Inverness catching the coronavirus.

What’s the difference in terms of “risk” between these folk and those phoning in to radio shows and insisting they won’t go anywhere near a workplace until it’s “safe” – whatever their definition of “safe” may be?

Care staff are deemed “essential workers”. And that’s fine if you’re a “non essential worker” and consider your job so “non essential” that you can do without it.

Of course any view of this kind invites accusations of complacency and even recklessness in ignoring the impact of the coronavirus. But the overwhelming evidence – backed up by the numbers – is that by far the worst affected are elderly, non-working people with underlying health conditions.

Even if not entirely, absolutely guaranteed a thousand per cent “risk” free, activity should resume in and around the city centre and elsewhere as quickly as possible.

Adequate safety measures can be put in place. After three months of social-distancing warnings being hammered and pounded into our heads, no-one is in any frame of mind to now disregard them, in a workplace or out of it.

The longer the current emptiness and desolation goes on the greater the chances that many younger people of working age will end up struggling to get off the unemployment scrapheap. In the past I’ve been there once for a relatively short time – and I genuinely regret to report it’s somewhere between traumatic and hellish.

The past few days have been dominated by Black Lives Matter protests, ironically with protesters crowding together in huge, uncontrolled numbers. Left-wing media outlets that went into a frenzy over the Dominic Cummings affair have had nothing to say about that – in fact they’ve been urging these protesters on.

But amid the blatantly mixed messages, the resounding declaration now should be “Jobs Matter Too”.

And if that isn’t taken to heart and acted on as quickly as possible, a terrible number of people are going to be hit like a thunderbolt by the drastically life-changing consequences of unemployment.

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