Moves to reopen garden centres this week in England have been welcomed by the horticulture industry, which urged Scotland to follow suit.
While most businesses and venues are to remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, garden centres in England are being allowed to open their doors.
Hundreds of nurseries and growers – many of them family businesses – have faced ruin as the market for seasonal plants shut down at a time when people normally flock to outlets to restock their gardens.
Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) chairman James Barnes described the reopening of garden centres in England as “a positive economic move”, which would be applauded by millions of gardeners and the industry.
“This is not only a positive economic move but gardening benefits the mental health and wellbeing of so many people isolating at home and the importance of having something to do at home keeps you at home,” he said.
But he added it “isn’t the single answer for the £1.5 billion British nursery market” and called for a compensation scheme to help “save our horticultural industry”.
He said the HTA had sought urgent talks with the Scottish Government to ascertain when a date will be set for the reopening of garden centres in Scotland “as soon as safely possible”.
The current situation in different parts of the UK would confuse the public and put the Scottish horticulture industry at a disadvantage to the rest of the UK, he warned.
“We have made the same case to the Northern Ireland Executive,” he added.
Customers returning to garden centres can expect access controls in place in car parks, restrictions on how many people will be allowed in stores, and to have to keep two metres apart.
Cafes, restaurants and children’s play areas will remain shut.
Garden centres are open for business in Wales and they're doing safely, adopting supermarket measures - social distancing, wide tills, screens, one way, limited numbers, disinfecting#WalesStayAtHome 🏠#ScotlandStayAtHome 🏠#NorthernIrelandStayAtHome 🏠#EnglandStayAlert ☕️ pic.twitter.com/qtx7apjLBC— Ben Birchall (@BenBirchallUK) May 11, 2020
TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh said “it is up to us all now to make the supply chain work safely” because “gardens enhance our lives”.
The challenge for garden centre managers will be to ensure that customers have “as pleasant an experience as possible without compromising their wellbeing”, he added.
He continued: “With joint determination to make this work – and that will involve patience and cooperation on both sides of the till – we can rescue a situation and avert what seemed, a few weeks ago, like total disaster.
“Gardens enhance our lives, and now we have a chance to support and encourage those who grow the plants that fill them.”
Garden centres in Wales were allowed to open from Monday, while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland’s guidelines on the reopening of garden centres will be considered in the coming days.