I’ve been privileged to have had a few tours round the site in recent years, most recently last week, with the hard-hatted roustabouts still finishing off construction criss-crossing the galleries of the curved, covered thoroughfare with an army of shop-fitters, stylists and sales staff getting ready for this morning’s Covid-compliant, not-so-grand opening.
Much has been much written and said about how transformative the complex will be, but with superlatives at every turn – Europe’s biggest new Zara, Britain’s biggest Miele, Scotland’s first & other stories, etc ─ and new stores and services opening throughout the rest of the year, it’s hard to underestimate its likely impact, Covid notwithstanding.
The gauntlet it throws down to the rest of the city centre is clear, less so what the reaction will be, but the scale of it, together with the high-end marques on Multrees Walk, the hoped-for rebirth of Jenner’s and re-shaping of George Street could mean that in a blink of an eye, which has been 15 years in the making, Glasgow will be replaced as Scotland’s premier retail destination.
People will have their views about the Walnut Whip – and now it’s up I’ve grown to quite like it – but when all the challenges it’s faced are taken into account, St James is a triumph.
John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston