Edinburgh's St James Quarter is a triumph that can help steal Glasgow's shopping crown – John McLellan

The big day has finally arrived; the concrete monstrosity which was New St Andrew’s House has long been consigned to the Evening News nostalgia page and a new chapter in Edinburgh’s history opens along with the new St James Quarter.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 4:55 am
The new St James Quarter building has grown on John McLellan (Picture: Ian Georgeson)

I’ve been privileged to have had a few tours round the site in recent years, most recently last week, with the hard-hatted roustabouts still finishing off construction criss-crossing the galleries of the curved, covered thoroughfare with an army of shop-fitters, stylists and sales staff getting ready for this morning’s Covid-compliant, not-so-grand opening.

Much has been much written and said about how transformative the complex will be, but with superlatives at every turn – Europe’s biggest new Zara, Britain’s biggest Miele, Scotland’s first & other stories, etc ─ and new stores and services opening throughout the rest of the year, it’s hard to underestimate its likely impact, Covid notwithstanding.

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The gauntlet it throws down to the rest of the city centre is clear, less so what the reaction will be, but the scale of it, together with the high-end marques on Multrees Walk, the hoped-for rebirth of Jenner’s and re-shaping of George Street could mean that in a blink of an eye, which has been 15 years in the making, Glasgow will be replaced as Scotland’s premier retail destination.

People will have their views about the Walnut Whip – and now it’s up I’ve grown to quite like it – but when all the challenges it’s faced are taken into account, St James is a triumph.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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