INVERNESS city centre on Saturday afternoon, the same city centre Saturday as has become the norm for nearly three long months. Empty, desolate, lifeless, depressing, surreal, and sad. The most profound and disheartening visual effect of the entire drastic situation – a place with no people. But that’s about to change.
Phase 2 of the return to normal activity is on schedule to be implemented on Thursday. And next weekend the city centre will at least partly be back in business.
And the emptiness and desolation will come to an end.
Small shops and some other business will be allowed to reopen.
The unknown factor that hangs over the precinct, of course, is how many will not reopen because they’ve run out of money and gone bust.
However, gloom and doom predictions may have been overstated. The majority could open up and eagerly try to claw some lost cash back.
And they shouldn’t be short of customers.
Many people have shunned the centre over the past three months as an utterly cheerless and dispiriting place to venture into.
When things get moving again, they could return in a flood.
The centre is the heart of what’s been a transformed city. When it gets beating again many folk will want to check its pulse. Nothing will more signal we’re returning to some kind of normal life than the city centre in the process of revival, with people, shops, movement, laughter, chatter – and life.
No-one will take anything for granted. Inverness is still far removed from “normality”.
Very difficult times still lie ahead. There’s the grim prospect that one of the busiest buildings in the coming weeks and months will be the Inverness jobcentre.
But what we expect next weekend will be a city centre at least partly rejuvenated and at least partly recognisable as the place it used to be – a huge morale boost to many.
Even allowing for an increase in the virus – unlikely given that virtually no new cases are now being reported in the Highlands – it’s impossible to believe we’d return to week zero and complete closure as in the dark days of March.
These images depict for the last time a barren Saturday city centre that may never be seen again.
The buzz is set to come back – a hugely welcome stride along the route back to life as we know it.