Ewan Gurr: What Christmas Cheer Is There For Scotland’s Hospitality and Retail Industries?

I love Christmas. From mid-November, Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ and Frank Sinatra’s ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ are mainstays on my playlist and our family tree is usually erected around the same time. The change of pace coupled with cosying up under blankets with my children for the first two Home Alone movies and with my wife for that undisputed Christmas classic – Die Hard – are just a few festivities which traditionally feature in our celebrations.

However, one aspect which has never enthralled us is the commercialisation of Christmas. The late theologian and philosopher, G.K. Chesterton, once profoundly said: “There are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” Stressing oneself silly to buy more stuff for those who have all they could possibly ever need just seems completely out of sync with a day named after the birth of a homeless, poverty-stricken refugee in a stable.  

As Omicron became the dominant variant in the next chapter of this interminable pandemic[1], new regulations were unveiled for Scottish businesses. Yes, those for whom the pandemic has been most costly must now pay to install screens and reduce crowding at a time when being busy is critical to their survival[2]. And this, in the same week it was announced businesses in Scotland were hit to the tune of £1 billion on cancelled Christmas bookings alone[3] – equivalent to £2,804 per Scottish business.    

It is a bitter irony that a season of celebration and hope associated with the birth of the most significant character in human history could be contorted by a great loss of livelihoods and possibly even lives. However, while there is undisputedly bad news, the Greek word gospel translates as “good news” and I must admit to dialling out of the melancholic tones of both Scotland’s First Minister and the UK Prime Minister to tune instead into a more promising frequency this festive season.

The humility of Jesus’ birth, heroism of his life, horror of his death and hallmark of his resurrection together amass monumental historical and present-day significance. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ first words to his disciples post-resurrection were “peace be with you”. At no other point has a message of peace been more necessary than now to assuage the dashed hopes of retail staff, taxi drivers as well as waiters and waitresses who fear the prospect of another lockdown in the face of a trigger-happy government.

In my city of Dundee, the last two years of despondency contrast with a growing optimism that has infused us by altering historically impoverished perceptions of it to one of a phoenix rising from the ashes of deindustrialisation. Despite possessing higher positions in the indices of multiple deprivation[4] as well as tables for foodbank use[5] and drug deaths[6] than we might prefer, there is a visible resurrection of barren sites earmarked for the next phase of commercial and cultural transformation.

Despite a bitter year for employees and employers, Dundee Waterfront is now home to over 1,000 jobs paid above the living wage threshold since Social Security Scotland took up residence alongside those already in post at the Port of Dundee, Sleeperz Hotel and V&A. Many more opportunities will follow in 2024 when the Eden Project[7] and 4,000-seat capacity eSports arena[8] both proceed and this physical resurrection will ricochet throughout the rest of Dundee as living standards continue to rise.    

The Greek word for resurrection is anastasia, which means “to rise again”. While our current economic prospectus is bad news, I hope the good news of the resurrection of Him whose birth we will celebrate this forthcoming weekend bears prophetic import for the prospects of Scotland in 2022, which I believe will indeed rise again.

Ewan Gurr, National Organiser, Restore Scotland

[1] Author unspecified (2021), Available at: ’Covid: Omicron now dominant virus variant in Scotland’, BBC News, 18 December (Accessed: 22 December 2021)

[2] Author unspecified (2021), Available at: ’Covid in Scotland: New regulations come into force’, BBC News, 17 December (Accessed: 22 December 2021)

[3] Author unspecified (2021), Available at: ’Covid in Scotland: Hospitality ‘takes £1bn hit’ on cancelled Christmas parties’, BBC News, 16 December (Accessed: 22 December 2021)

[4] Research and Information Team (2020), Available at: ’Dundee City – Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2020’, Dundee City Council (Accessed: 22 December 2021)

[5] Fairness Commission (2015), Available at: ’Foodbanks and Fuel Poverty – December 2015’, Dundee City Council (Accessed: 22 December 2021)

[6] Safeguarding and Child Protection Association (2021), Available at: ’Scotland’s drugs deaths rise to record high but Dundee cases fall’, 30 July 2021 (Accessed: 22 December 2021)

[7] Eden Project, (2021), Available at: ’Eden Project Dundee, UK | Eden Project’, (Accessed: 22 December 2021)

[8] Author unspecified (2021), Available at: ’Esports has massive potential in Scotland’, BBC News, 10 December (Accessed: 22 December 2021)