By Bill Heaney
The prospect of garden centres opening for Spring planting, looks to be on course. SNP MSP Christine Grahame told the Holyrood parliament on Wednesday: “As we know, spring is in the offing and thoughts turn to gardening, which is good for the soul in these tough times—I declare an interest in that regard.
“Although one can buy plants and gardening equipment in B & Q and supermarkets, garden centres—most of which are mainly outdoors premises—are restricted to click and collect, which the Horticultural Trades Association has claimed has provided only 3 per cent of the usual turnover.
“This is an important time of the year for them. Will the Scottish Government revisit the matter? It does not appear to be a level playing field—a situation that impacts not only on small local garden centres but on all the local growers who provide seasonal stock.”
The First Minister told her: “I am not sure that my soul is yet quite so troubled as to require me to take to the garden. My apologies to gardeners and horticulturists—Roseanna Cunningham, pictured left, is about to get me into trouble; I know how important the subject is and will move on before I get myself into deeper trouble.
“I know how important gardens are to all of us—including me—and how important the spring and summer period is to the industry.
“Limiting many garden centres to online sales and collection was a really difficult decision that we had to take to ensure that we suppressed the new, more transmissible strain of the virus.
“We have not taken the approach of prohibiting sales of particular items in essential stores—it is up to the individual retailer to decide that, provided that they operate within the guidelines.
“Garden centres remain open in tier 3 areas and, as I set out this week, I am hopeful that we will be able to see a phased but significant reopening of the economy in April, which would include the opening of non-essential retailers.
“I reassure people—in case anybody got the wrong impression from the light-hearted start of that answer—that gardens and garden centres are really important to everybody across the country.”
Levengrove Park, where Spring looks to be springing already. Picture by Michael Moffat. Top picture is of Bernie Heaney at Craigend Garden Centre off the A814 at Cardross.