Covid and internet sales are already hitting Edinburgh's economy and May's Scottish Parliament election could add to its woes – John McLellan

With last week’s chastening assessment in the PWC “Good Growth for Cities” report of Edinburgh’s likely slow pace of recovery from the pandemic, another wake-up call comes from the Centre for Cities’ measurement of Christmas sales.

If Scotland is in constitutional uproar after May's election will English tourists pick resorts like Blackpool over Edinburgh? (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)
If Scotland is in constitutional uproar after May's election will English tourists pick resorts like Blackpool over Edinburgh? (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

It found that Edinburgh city centre had the worst performance in the UK, with December spending only five per cent up on the last week of November and just 29 per cent ahead of February. Top of the table Middlesbrough and Birkenhead, hardly shopping meccas, were both 180 per cent above February.

This could illustrate the importance of Edinburgh’s Christmas in drawing shoppers from elsewhere, but without a Christmas lift and already the very real probability of no festivals season for the second year running and no overseas visitors, it’s not hard to see a real need for full government support right up til next Christmas if there is to be anything left in the city centre apart from the new St James Centre.

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You don’t have to be Jeff Bezos to know where the money has gone and, according to new Office of National Statistics data, online sales last month were 45 per cent higher than December 2019, with internet food shopping growing over 90 per cent.

Maybe with the acceleration of the vaccine programme in England, visitors from the south will help balance out the absence of foreign travel, but if Scotland is in full-blown constitutional uproar after the May election then perhaps newly inoculated English holiday-makers will take their chances in Bognor or Blackpool, Torquay or Tenby.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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