Waiting in the snaking queue outside Primark on Argyle Street, Lisa McNally has one purchase in mind: jammies. “Everything else I’ll get online. I don’t get paid until after lockdown starts.”
Glasgow city centre is busier than she’d expected for a weekday morning. “People are panicking,” her friend Connie Goodman suggests. Neither is convinced that the “short and sharp” imposition of near-lockdown restrictions across the west of Scotland, which come into force from 6pm on Friday, will be over after the promised three weeks. “They said that about the first lockdown.”
Both are aware of Nicola Sturgeon’s proposed trade-off between increased restrictions now and a relative relaxation for Christmas, but McNally is concerned about the impact on family members now. “I’m worried about my dad, who’s going to be alone in the house for the next three weeks,” she said.
Goodman’s family Christmas will be curtailed regardless of revised guidance. “My sister-in-law is a nurse and her father has cancer, so she won’t travel. Every family has different pressures,” she said.
The pair are most mindful of the effect on younger family members. “The kids are not going to get what they’re used to,” said McNally. “My daughter keeps asking me when we’re going round to her grandpa’s.”
On the day before Glasgow, along with 10 other local authority areas, enters tier 4 – the highest of Scotland’s five-level Covid controls – the city centre’s streets were busy, but not comparable with the traditional Christmas rush. Many stores are as yet without their seasonal decorations.
Sitting on a bench surrounded by bags of wrapping paper and baubles, Holly Fraser had found some shelves empty already. She also suspects that the imminent restrictions may last longer, but is pragmatic. “I’m not expecting it to be a normal Christmas when people are still dying,” she said.
Linda Irvine had been shopping for a few surprises for her two grandchildren, who she hopes to be able to visit on Christmas Day. “I like to see it when it’s busy. It’s been so quiet recently, and I do worry about the impact on businesses,” she said. “A lot of these shops won’t open up again after this lockdown.” Personally, though, the sacrifice now will be worth it for a family day with her son and grandchildren.
Malake Kamal and Andrew James, both engineering students at Glasgow University, were shopping for trainers, although the expected bargains had not so far materialised. “The announcement happened so quickly,” said James. “I don’t think shops had time to organise sales.”
Kamal said the atmosphere was festive and friendly. “It’s definitely busier than it has been, but everybody is being nice.” As students who must shortly negotiate the end-of-term migration, the imminent restrictions make sense. James, whose family is based in York, said: “I’d rather go into tier 4 now than be locked down for Christmas.”