Opinion: Scott Wright: Finally, as the pages of this awful year close, is there hope for the economy?


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It is only normal to look for signs as we eventually approach the end of this harrowing year that 2021 will be healthier, happier and more economically prosperous than the months of suffering we have experienced since the coronavirus started to consume our everyday reality.

Introducing vaccinations provides the best hope for a return to normalcy. There was big news in this respect yesterday when the UK Regulatory Agency for Medicines and Healthcare Products provided the green light for the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

While several other vaccines have either been approved or are still being produced, the Oxford vaccine has been praised as a “game changer” because it will be considerably cheaper and easier to administer and store than the currently used Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Given the understandable optimism about the possibility of a rapid commercial launch for the Oxford vaccine, it still seems too early to get a firm understanding of when there will be a substantial easing of constraints. Health experts have regularly cautioned that, given the alarming pace at which the latest strain of coronavirus is circulating across the UK population, restrictions on our everyday lives will continue for some time, which is understandable.

However, there are signs of businesses preparing for life after Covid in the Scottish business sector, at least now, which has given a welcome boost in recent days.

Last week, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), which has not invited people (while hosting virtual activities) since the March lockout, announced that it has booked three big events for the second half of 2021.

In September, October and November, the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, Cleantech Forum Europe and Society for Endocrinology conferences are expected to draw 1,000, 400 and 1,000 participants. The events could also help the many cafes, bars and restaurants in the city, in addition to boosting the EICC itself, assuming there are less constraints on travel and meetings in hospitality venues.

EICC Chief Executive Marshall Dallas rightly stressed the significance of the sector in recovering from the pandemic, with the events industry worth £ 6 billion to the Scottish economy, while understanding the importance of the vaccination program in this regard.

The EICC also has a wide pipeline of inquiries from event promoters involved in bringing their events to Scotland, which is crucial.

“We are confident that we will see more UK conferences and events next year, with a stronger return to international conferences in 2022,” Mr. Dallas said.

“We also know that business events will be a key driver in reviving the Scottish economy as we move past the pandemic.”

Anyone who questions the role that events can play in shaping an economy only needs to look at the significance attached to Glasgow hosting next November’s COP26, the UN climate change conference.

It is no exaggeration to suggest that as international leaders meet to discuss ways to tackle climate change faster, the eyes of the world will be on the region.

With 30,000 delegates expected, this should provide the hospitality industry, which has suffered so much during the pandemic, with a much-needed boost. As Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce of Glasgow, wrote in yesterday’s edition of The Magazine yesterday, COP26 will also present Glasgow as a “city of technological and social innovation.”

At commercial real estate business CBRE, optimism is also in the air. Its research, released just before Christmas, on the outlook for the commercial real estate market, stood out for its distinctly positive tone.

Just one day before the announcement of the UK-EU Brexit deal, CBRE said an agreement would reduce one of the greatest drags on the economy over the past five years. It predicted that as customers do more and more of their online shopping, the logistics sector will remain attractive to investors, and that the residential market will also perform well, boosted by’ fiscal’


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