by Colin Campbell
IT’S a bright Thursday morning in Inverness and I hope it’s the same in Aberdeen, because if a grey haar is rolling in over it from the North Sea the Granite City today must a very cheerless place.
With the city in the grip of another coronavirus lockdown, many people there must feel like they’re back where they started from five months ago.
And maybe even worse.
There’s no sugar coating it. It’s a profoundly dispiriting scenario. And as far as Inverness is concerned, it’s way too close to home.
The same range of measures were applied there, as here, to try and return life back to something close to normal. And they haven’t worked.
And now the first question is – where do we go from here?
And the second is – where will the virus overpower any sense of “normality” next?
By moving cautiously through the phases it seemed we were gaining ground in bringing back daily life as we used to know it.
What’s happened in Aberdeen has dealt a hammer blow to that. Even allowing for what we’ve gone through in the long, difficult and surreal times gone by, “second lockdown” reality must be just about the worst news for months.
Naturally cheerful people will remain naturally cheerful, and life’s optimists will remain upbeat. But many other people will surely have suffered a serious blow to their morale.
The rapidly spreading outbreak is being blamed – all too predictably – on foolish and even reckless behaviour in pubs in the city.
As we’ve said before, there’s been more than enough of that in the Highland capital also.
Those involved have been tempting fate to the limit – and now we see the consequences.
The First Minister has said the situation will be reviewed in a week’s time and the new restrictions could be lifted.
But how’s that going to work? The hope may be that “lessons will have been learned”.
And it’s true that people will feel lessons have been learned when they’re sober. And it’s equally true they’ll forget them all over again when they’re drunk.
What the atmosphere is like in Aberdeen just now we do not precisely know. But if this had happened in Inverness we could hazard a reasonable guess. The “second lockdown” fallout would not be confined to a few errant pubs and a large number of reckless boozers.
There would be a full-scale resurgence of the anxiety and tension – and behind-closed doors depression – which was so evident and so dominant in April and May.
It would affect people who never go near a pub.
This is not the dreaded full-scale nationwide “second wave”. But cities in England, Blackburn, Leicester, Manchester, have all been forced into a second lockdown covering a huge swathe of the north of England.
And now it’s happened in the city which is the nearest to Inverness. That makes its mark in a way that event hundreds of miles away in cities south of the border do not.
Nicola Sturgeon says this is “a wake up call” to the whole of Scotland. It’s all of that.
Even in the shining eyes of the sunniest optimist there was never going to be a clear way out of this situation. A second lockdown in Aberdeen hammers home that reality and makes it all the more confusing and dauntingly uncertain.
As for Inverness, if this doesn’t drive home the message that what we’ve already described as the “virus free zone” mentality of all too many revellers on weekend night must come to an end, nothing will.
This weekend police should be entering city centre pubs. Their presence alone would be a powerful indicator that the city centre “free for all” is over and guidelines must be adhered to.
Pub owners who just enjoy seeing the money rolling in – not all, but some at least – must be reminded they have a responsibility to the wider community which far outweighs their satisfaction in hearing their tills jangling again.
What has happened at the other end of the A96 in Aberdeen could just as easily happen here with devastating consequences for the entire city.
And if it did many people would disregard and dismiss pleas from publicans that they have a living to make as well, and would want the shutters to come down and remain down for a considerable time ahead.