Scottish businesses and key personalities unite in call for garden centres to be re-opened
by Rachel McQuilliam
Representatives from Scotland’s horticulture sector have joined together to call for garden centres to be reopened before the end of March. 18 high profile organisations, businesses and individuals have put their signatures to an open letter to the Scottish Government. With the peak Spring season fast approaching, which sees 70% of bedding plants sold between March and May, it is a crucial time for the hard-pressed Scottish domestic horticulture industry.
Organised by the Horticultural Trades Association, well-loved gardening name Jim McColl, National Farmers Union Scotland, Scottish Retail Consortium, Royal Horticultural Society and other garden industry bodies, joined with Scottish headquartered businesses such as Dobbies and Klondyke and Scottish independent garden centres and growers to make this urgent appeal to the Government.
It comes a week before Ministers meet to review and give further detail on the routemap out of lockdown, first outlined by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon on 23 February. The open letter set out seven key reasons for why garden centres should begin trading again:
Health and Wellbeing: Gardening brings well documented and significant benefits to mental health and well-being.
Stay at Home: Allowing garden centres and retail plant nurseries to reopen would support the Government’s efforts to encourage people to remain at home by giving them a safe, healthy activity to do.
Safe Trading environment: Garden centres are spacious, well ventilated with large outdoor areas. The industry is committing to implement enhanced social distancing measures in conjunction with the Scottish Government.
Economic turmoil: The garden retail sector is proliferated by smaller, independent businesses key to their local communities. Facing the loss of the crucial Spring gardening season a second year running will mean disaster for some businesses, possible closures and job losses.
Plants are being thrown away: Scottish growers overwhelmingly supply Scottish garden centres. Growers are throwing out thousands of plants which should have been on sale in March because they don’t have this ‘route to market’.
An industry worth saving: The Scottish ornamental horticulture industry contributes £2.2 billion to Scottish GDP directly and indirectly and supports 53,900 jobs.
Click & Collect doesn’t work: Click and collect and home delivery services are at best only achieving 3-10% of the usual levels of demand.
Jim McColl said: “Over a 62-year career in horticulture, north and south of the border, I have worked with people of all ages, from all walks of life, and seen first-hand how gardening has a significant influence – helping people to forget what is bothering them. I have no doubt this positive impact has been magnified in recent times as people learn how best to manage the effects of this pandemic.
Reports abound of how people have found solace and contentment simply by spending a wee while in the garden. It doesn't take long before the worries of the wider world seem some way off! Stand back, have a look at what you have achieved in the last 30 minutes and feel relaxed - time for a cuppa or even a dram! "
Horticulture’s unique supply chain for perishable, seasonal products is a particular risk from continued lockdown and Chairman of the HTA, James Barnes, says the letter is a clear indication of the strength of feeling within the industry:
“The signatories of this letter include representatives from grower, retail, landscaper and charity organisations, all of which are important employers and contributors to the economy and society as a whole. They are joined by our own HTA members and together show how deeply we as an industry are feeling a lack of recognition for what we have to offer and what we stand to lose.”
The letter has been shared on the HTA website and sent to the editors of several national newspapers.