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Sadness as weddings grind to a halt at Gretna Green

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By Fiona Reid
Sadness as weddings grind to a halt at Gretna Green

NORMALLY at this time of the year Gretna Green is bustling with spring weddings but one leading hotelier this week described it as ‘eerie and saddening’.

Alasdair Houston, chairman of Gretna Green Ltd which operates Smiths, Green’s, Gretna Hall and the Famous Blacksmith’s Shop, issued a statement describing the impact of coronavirus on his businesses and the village. He said: “As we approach two weeks since much of our Gretna Green business has temporarily closed to the public, it’s both eerie and saddening seeing an empty village in the spring, when it’s normally so full of love, life and energy as our little corner of Scotland fills with visitors from all corners of the world, our wedding season hits full swing and our colleagues gear up for the excitement of welcoming all.

“We, like many others, are continually adapting to the changing situation to ensure that we continue to support our local community, the UK as a whole and internationally. As a fourth-generation family business, we are at the same time, doing everything we can to safeguard the short and long-term interests of our colleagues, our future guests and other partners.”

Mr Houston said the decision to close their sites was ‘heart wrenching’, adding: “We share the disappointment and distress of brides and grooms and I am very proud of our colleagues in Gretna Green Wedding Team dealing magnificently under abnormal pressure to reschedule weddings for when this all passes.

“I feel personally and deeply for our colleagues from our closed hotels, museum, shops and restaurants who have had to be temporarily stood down (‘furloughed’). But I am looking forward positively to the time when we can all ‘begin again’ and re-start the Gretna Green we all know and love. For 135 years this year, we have persevered and stood firm, and we will continue to do so steadfastly in the future, supporting our community and beyond.”

He praised the Gretna Green online team for their work and revealed products continue to be shipped world-wide. And he pledged that all furloughed staff will be paid on their normal days, even if government support is not through, adding: “We will carry 100 per cent of the delay-risk. No one has gone or will go unpaid in the Team Gretna Green family.”

A commitment to promptly pay suppliers was also made and Mr Houston said: “It’s simply the right thing to do, however difficult it is in the short term. “We will work together to move past this together, in the best way possible so that we have future opportunities to recover together. When the time is right, Gretna Green will welcome you and all of our customers from the UK and internationally, with open arms and a warm heart, to once again share in our unique Gretna Green experience.”