My Column

We can all spread some festive cheer

  • Date: Monday 10th December 2018
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There’s no denying Christmas is around the corner now.

You can’t enter a shop without wading past poinsettias and tinsel and hearing Mariah Carey over the loudspeaker.

Houses are already decked out with fairy lights and all manner of inventive ornaments and statues.

All the signs are saying this is the season to be jolly.

And that’s why it’s very easy to forget that, for many people out there – too many in fact, this isn’t such a jolly time at all.

Families already on the breadline face enormous financial pressures and unfortunately it’s a season that can also bring stress, shame and heartache.

This fact was reinforced by the charity One Parent Families Scotland last week, which warned of a “Christmas catastrophe”.

Universal Credit is seeing its final roll-out for new claimants and has come under fire amid claims that some benefits won’t be paid until early January.

The charity reckons one-parent families are being hit hardest, with its head of policy Marion Davis saying problems and delays have left some families “almost destitute” and warning of a “grim Christmas”.

And it’s not a lone voice.  Action for Children believe there are “Dickensian levels of poverty” after years of austerity and said a horrifying 100,000 Scottish children are going to miss out on Christmas basics.

It’s a terrible situation – absolutely heart-breaking – and it doesn’t half give you a sense of perspective.

Some people think fitting in time to get all their Christmas shopping done is a struggle. No – not being able to afford any presents is the real struggle.

And not being able to afford absolute basics like warm clothes and fresh food for the table is a stark reality for some.

Then there’s those who don’t have a table – nor even a home. Shelter Scotland was outside Holyrood recently to raise awareness of the fact that more than 6,000 kids will be without a permanent home this Christmas.

Amidst this awful reality, many individuals and business alike are rallying around to do their bit to help those who are struggling this Christmas.

Companies up and down the country have launched festive charity initiatives like food bank collections and toy donations, and this makes a huge difference.

Food banks in particular are going to be extremely heavily relied upon so every donation counts.

Glasgow’s Drygate brewery will be opening its doors on Christmas day to offer meals for the homeless, vulnerable and elderly thanks to a generous donation from one of its suppliers.

Staff who work on the day will be volunteering their time and this lovely initiative came about through the suggestion of a thoughtful staff member. It just shows you the difference that one person can make.

Meanwhile Tesco stores in Edinburgh have joined forces with Hibs and Hearts to put on a special event for 400 people at Tynecastle Park and Easter Road stadiums to reach those most in need.

These are just a few of the many charity campaigns being undertaken by businesses across all of Scotland’s major cities and beyond this festive season.

I applaud the fact that so many companies have a social conscience and have staff that are absolutely passionate about helping the people on their doorsteps.

Will they fix the problem of Christmas poverty? Of course not. Not even close.

But for every single person who visits a food bank, receives toys for their kids, or gets a hot Christmas dinner, it means something and has an impact.

If you have a business and have the power to make someone’s life better, rally your staff and your customers and get involved in spreading some real Christmas magic.

 

SIDE

In recent years, Scotland has taken on a leading role in filmmaking and television production.

From George Square being transformed into the centre of a Philadelphian zombie apocalypse, to Chris Pine travelling through Linlithgow, Doune and Dunfermline as Robert the Bruce in the Outlaw King, we’ve certainly made our mark on the film industry.

And with BBC Scotland gearing up for the launch of its new channel in 2019, it’s likely we’ll see a raft of exciting new programmes next year.

To put us firmly on the film and TV production map, it looks like the Port of Leith is going to become a hub for publicly-funded filmmaking organisation, Screen Scotland.

The organisation has identified an industrial building in Leith as the new home of a major film and television studio and it’s now searching for a developer to take it on.

Last year, the building – which was built in 2000 – was temporarily turned into a studio for Avengers: Infinity War, and Screen Scotland wants to make it permanent. 

Screen Scotland is asking for tenders from both private and public sector bodies and is keen to appoint someone before the end of April next year.

If this all comes to fruition, it’s a fantastic opportunity for Scotland. It’s been great to see parts of films and TV series filmed in Scotland – but taking over this 160,000 sq ft building would give us the chance to bring an entire movie production to the city.

Let’s not forget that film-making isn’t just about generating cash from box office sales. I would like to see young actors, directors and producers getting the chance to get involved in multi-million pound productions. That experience will be invaluable.

And local businesses will no doubt benefit too. I am sure eateries will be happy to cater for a cast of hundreds.

It’s a huge responsibility and massive opportunity for whoever gets the job. And who knows? The next De Niro and Streep could very well be discovered in a home grown Scottish screen production.

 

LAUGH

First it was the Mars Bar. Then came the pickled egg.

It was only a matter of time before full dinners made their way into the fryer.

To prepare us for this year’s festivities, James Ellinsworth of April’s Plaice takeaway in Buckhaven in Fife is cooking up deep-fried Christmas dinners for adventurous customers.

The 1000-calorie feast includes a battered turkey (or chicken) leg, sprouts, pigs in blankets and roast potatoes.

What a fantastic piece of PR for the takeaway in the run-up to Christmas. I’m all for novelty dishes if they help boost local businesses – especially if they’re innovative and appeal to our Scottish sensibilities.

The battered turkey and trimmings may not be on the menu past January but it’s sure to create a footfall feast.

 

WEEP

It’s fair to say that no-one really knows what’s going to happen with the Brexit vote next week.

But if it’s a no-deal, according to Brexit Tracker research carried out by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, it appears that only 45 per cent of businesses are prepared.

ICA chief executive Bruce Cartwright reckons that businesses are having difficulty preparing as there’s no clarity and hopes that the ‘thorny issues’ will be smoothed over through parliamentary debate. 

I think we’re still a long way off from answers but I think businesses – no matter their size – need to prepare for a no-deal as the worst case scenario.

That shouldn’t mean mass panic and Brexit stockpiling – rather a considered discussion with staff about potential outcomes. 

 

 

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