Dodging the politics – Brendan McGinty’s March column

Brendan 01 McGuinty

In my first column for The Dram I remember writing that I’d be dodging politics with a capital P.

The best laid plans and all that…

It’s now practically impossible to discuss any issue affecting the trade without becoming mired in a political argument. Supply chain? Brexit. Staffing issues? Ditto. Business rates? Inevitably ends up coming back to which party is running the local council.

That’s before we get to the impact of the pandemic on the sector. Another discussion which will become political within 30 seconds.

That’s nobody’s fault – to use my least favourite phrase, it is what it is.

So with a sudden handbrake turn it’s time to talk more politics, not less.

And here’s why.

There’s a crisis in our city and town centres. I’ve written about it here before and it ain’t getting any better.

You’ll see it if you look around anywhere in Scotland. It doesn’t apply to one single place.

Gap sites, boarded up venues, empty commercial properties. Litter, dirt and neglect as far as the eye can see.

Inadequate public transport – huge taxi queues with young people in the early hours of the morning unable to get home in freezing temperatures.

It’s a situation which requires imagination, inspiration and hard work. But with a prize that’s so worth the winning.

So where are the big ideas? Who do you trust in the Scottish political system to show the leadership and lateral thinking required to turn a problem into an opportunity?

If you can answer that question hand on heart, then great.

If you can’t, then here’s some interesting news. The very people responsible have their jobs up for renewal in just over a month and we get to decide who goes and who stays.

Yes, it’s local election time.

Usually this means little more than a big opinion poll conducted on the national and international issues du jour.

Turnout is usually low and apathy can prevail. It’s remarkable, really, that in the 5G age the system is still paper and pencil with a trend-bucking requirement to be there in person.

Last time round (2017) participation was up a whopping seven points to a bit more than 46 per cent – these were the first big local elections held after the independence and Brexit referenda. Folk still had a bit to get off their chests.

This time round I’d like to see the trade become as involved as it can in the debate. The sector is a broad church but that doesn’t mean that – as one body – it can’t interrogate manifestos and politicians, measuring which parties are taking the challenge of reinvigorating one of Scotland’s most important industries.

This isn’t about telling people how to vote rather than making sure something more than lip service is paid by councils, which themselves benefit from high footfall, clean, safe environments and thriving night time economies.

Let’s see the major parties challenged to show the imagination and determination required at this crucial juncture.

Not just to turn up on the day and hope that the electorate go through the motions before voting out of habit.

This might just be a bit of a moment for our entertainment sector. I hope it’s one that’s grasped with both hands.

It’s been heartening to see so many pubs, clubs and restaurants around the country respond with heartfelt concern to the invasion of the Ukraine.

Many places have felt the heartbreak all too vividly with Ukrainian colleagues past and present.

Entertainment and hospitality offers a perspective like few others given the international nature of staffs. The response in the trade and far beyond has been admirable.

A reminder of the Disasters Emergency Committtee Ukraine appeal page for anyone who feels able to do any more:

You’ll very rarely find me out any later than midnight but I did make an exception for the Super Bowl party in Glasgow’s Committee Room Nine, one of the city’s better kept secrets.

The late license on a Sunday night separates the truly dedicated (and often American) from the casual fan and, as my own Cincinatti Bengals were in action, this was too good to miss.

Edged out in the end by the Los Angeles Rams, the CR9 atmosphere was nonetheless impressive. Thought nothing will ever compare to the biggest roar the game has produced in this beloved John Street venue – for the (admittedly brilliant) 2020 half-time show by J-Lo and Shakira.

Brendan McGinty owns Finnieston Communications


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