City centre is in its very last days of being a ghost town

by Colin Campbell

INVERNESS has entered the last week of the already fraying lockdown, what surely will be the final lockdown.

The city centre ghost town scenario is almost over, and it will not return.

A range of certainties has disintegrated under the pressure of the virus over the past year and more but it must be 99 per cent certain that we will not see Inverness city centre again turned into a dismal and empty ghost town.

With most people vaccinated and many people fully vaccinated we are in a situation unrecognisable from a year ago, last April, when we were reporting on initial confusion, that never fully went away, over the initial lockdown rules.

Twelve months on shops, bars, hotels and restaurants remain closed but that will end on Monday.

And then it will surely feel close to the end of this situation.

South African variants and Brazilian variants may remain a hovering threat of some kind but it would take a Black Plague variant for another full scale lockdown to happen.

Tory MPs would not accept it even if Boris Johnson felt under pressure from another round of scientific doom and gloom to try and shut everything up again. They’d have his tousled head on a chopping block.

And not even “I want to be straight with you Sturgeon” would dare to try and be so different as to again lock Scotland down unilaterally.

A majority of people still seem to have complete faith in her handling of the coronavirus, this leader of the nation who has always made the right choices and has never been pushed off course by political expediency or the desire for personal popularity. And who was so fortunate to discover just a couple of weeks ago that the science and progress made in the battle against the virus mean that she was able to allow 12,0000 football fans to converge on Hampden Park in a few weeks time for European championship football matches, adding that she would be delighted to be there also, cheering Scotland on.

Just as well there’s no election in the offing, at least not for another two weeks, or some of those who have placed such trust in her might even have a trace doubt over Sturgeon’s noisy outburst of enthusiasm for football.

When the shops opened up in Inverness last June 15 what might have been a day of excitement turned out to be a damp squib.

The lack of activity in the city centre was such that it might almost have been still locked down.

It took weeks for people to return in numbers and for trade to pick up.

Will reopening get such a hesitant and uncertain response this time?

That seems unlikely. Bars will open for outside service, and restaurants and hotels will be open again also. With UK wide travel restrictions also fully lifted the city centre looks likely to go from ghost town to tourist hotspot. With foreign travel either off limits or considered too difficult millions will be partaking of “staycations”.

And a mass influx of visitors will be heading for the Highlands for what’s likely to be the busiest season ever. Fresh air, space and scenery, there’s no destination in the UK which has such appeal.

Anyone confined to the claustrophobic streets and parks of a major city for months on end would surely regard a trip to the Highlands almost as a get out of jail card.

Inevitably fears will flare up again among some people that a tourist hotspot could become a virus hotspot. Most however will surely put their faith in the success of the vaccination programme and accept that there has to come a time when the economy takes priority and businesses which have suffered so much need freedom to get back on their feet.

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