ITS golden arches are a symbol of a fast-food empire whose restaurants feature in almost every part of the western world.
And now McDonald’s is cooking up plans to open in one of Scotland’s last unconquered regions – East Lothian – a county so far untouched by Big Mac and fries.
The fast-food giant has lodged plans to launch a 100-cover restaurant in Dunbar – its first sortie into East Lothian.
If planners agree, this would leave Argyll and Bute as the last mainland UK county to remain a McDonald’s-free zone.
The move has stoked fears the chain could spoil the character of East Lothian, often called the Garden County.
Malcolm Duck, chairman of the Edinburgh Restaurant Association, warned that when global brands set their sights on a region it can affect independent shops and “hit the small boys”.
He said: “McDonald’s is a brilliant company and they do a brilliant job, but is that what we want in rural East Lothian? It is trying very hard to retain its traditional character with fresh produce and traditional food and drink.”
Mr Duck, who owns Ducks restaurant at Kilspindie House in Aberlady, said there would be opposition to the blueprints for the fast-food outlet to be sited in the town’s Spott Road, near Asda, despite creating 65 new jobs. “I think there will be resistance to the plans,” he said.
“Though if it is for a service station stop then that’s probably a good thing as long as it’s not the thin end of the wedge.”
The hamburger chain’s delay in expanding into East Lothian may come as a surprise, but multinationals do not always consider council boundaries when setting up shop.
Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It may have been that McDonald’s has forgotten about East Lothian, but it will soon find it is one of the undiscovered secrets of the Lothians. East Lothian does need jobs – all areas need jobs – but if you look at the sheer number of people who live in East Lothian and travel to Edinburgh for work then at least 65 more people will be able to stay in the community.”
Motorists will welcome the news of a pit stop between Berwick upon Tweed and Edinburgh, said Stephen Bunyan, chairman of Dunbar Community Council, who admitted he had mixed feelings. He said: “I hope some of the people who have stopped to visit McDonald’s will come through into Dunbar and see what it has to offer.”
A spokeswoman for McDonald’s confirmed the company hoped to invest in the area.
DUNDEE LED THE WAY IN SCOTLAND
McDonald’s opened its first Scottish restaurant in Dundee in 1987 – almost 13 years after the first UK branch launched in London.
The American firm then chose Kirkcaldy for its next restaurant but Edinburgh and Glasgow were forced to wait until the 1990s for a taste of the iconic brand.
McDonald’s has since opened 13 branches across Edinburgh, including restaurants in Princes Street, Corstorphine, Fort Kinnaird, South Queensferry and London Road. At the Princes Street branch in 1991, the Scottish national rugby team – led by David Sole – fuelled up on Big Macs before taking to the pitch against Western Samoa in a crucial World Cup match. Scotland triumphed 28-6.