Leading gardeners – including prominent north voice Jim McColl – have penned an open letter calling for the urgent reopening of garden centres.
Representatives from across the sector have asked the Scottish Government to consider bringing in the change by the end of the month.
They include Beechgrove stalwart and P&J columnist Mr McColl, the Scottish Retail Consortium and the heads of Dobbies and Klondyke.
The Horticulture Trades Association says the move is vital for improving wellbeing and helping the “hard-pressed” Scottish industry ahead of the peak spring season.
It found almost three-quarters of bedding plants sold every year leave the shelves between March and May.
Scottish ministers are due to meet next week to review the route map out of lockdown and the campaign group wants garden centres to form part of their agenda.
Reasons for reopening
Their open letter has set out seven reasons why these businesses should be allowed to resume trading, covering health and wellbeing, and the fact gardening gives people a safe hobby to work on at home.
It says garden centres can trade safely – due to their spacious and well-ventilated nature – and, otherwise, will have to throw out thousands of unsold plants.
Scottish ornamental horticulture supports almost 54,000 jobs and generates around £2.2 billion for the economy every year.
The letter states: “The garden retail sector is proliferated by smaller, independent businesses key to their local communities.
“Facing the loss of the crucial Spring gardening season a second year running will mean disaster for some businesses, possible closures and job losses.”
Gardening has a ‘significant’ influence
Jim McColl has been gardening across the UK for the last 62 years and retired from the BBC’s flagship Beechgrove Garden programme after four decades in 2019.
He said: “I have worked with people of all ages, from all walks of life, and seen first-hand how gardening has a significant influence – helping people to forget what is bothering them.
“I have no doubt this positive impact has been magnified in recent times as people learn how best to manage the effects of this pandemic.
“Reports abound of how people have found solace and contentment simply by spending a wee while in the garden.
“It doesn’t take long before the worries of the wider world seem some way off.
“Stand back, have a look at what you have achieved in the last 30 minutes and feel relaxed – time for a cuppa, or even a dram.”
James Barnes, chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, added: “The signatories of this letter include representatives from grower, retail, landscaper and charity organisations, all of which are important employers and contributors to the economy and society as a whole.
“They are joined by our own HTA members and together show how deeply we as an industry are feeling a lack of recognition for what we have to offer and what we stand to lose.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Under the current restrictions, garden centres and plant nurseries are allowed to operate click and collect services and can still provide delivery of items ordered by telephone and online.
“Our strategic framework sets out a phased easing of lockdown back into levels which envisages the opening of non-essential retail – including garden centres – in April.
“This is conditional on the progress of the vaccination programme and the six conditions recommended by the World Health Organisation being met.
“We know that the tight restrictions currently in place cause significant harm to individuals, communities and businesses and we do not want to keep them in place any longer than is necessary.
“We will ease the current restrictions in a gradual way which stops the virus taking hold once more, limits opportunities for new variants and allows time for the vaccination programme to roll out.”