WHEN people have asked what's the first place I plan to visit when lockdown lifts – after seeing loved ones, of course – my unwavering answer has always been: the garden centre.

You can keep your pubs, cinemas, concert venues and football stadiums, quite frankly. They can't hold a candle to a place where the coffee and cake are God-tier.

There is something transcendental about strolling through the aisles of a garden centre that makes me feel as if life is filled with infinite possibility. A sense of peace descends and all the white noise fades away.

Show me a trestle table filled with bedding plants or a twirling rack of vegetable seeds and I get the same tension release in my shoulders that other people experience when they step into a spa.

That's why I can't fathom the recent grumblings about garden centres reopening. Believe me, I've no interest in sitting in a mile-long queue of traffic to buy "fast food", booking a tee time on the golf course or dusting off the croquet mallet like a certain Tory MSP, but each to their own.

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It has been galling to see garden centres become an unnecessary battleground in the coronavirus culture war, the suggestion by some being that the urgency of their reopening was merely a political ploy to appease middle-class voters.

What utter nonsense. I don't understand why gardening is suddenly being pigeonholed as a largely middle-class pursuit. Working-class families have always grown things and taken pride in their patches – big and small.

My family certainly did. I remember both sets of grandparents, hailing from small mining villages in central Scotland, cultivating flowers and vegetables.

When I didn't have a garden and lived in a second-floor tenement flat in the east end of Glasgow, I grew chillies on my kitchen windowsill, alongside a few tomato plants, some cress and lettuce.

There's been a lot of talk, quite rightly, about the importance of supporting small local businesses during lockdown. Which is why I've made the point of ordering produce from my local garden centre in recent months, just as I did the local butcher and other family-run retailers.

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Plants are perishable. They have a shelf life. What do you think was happening to them while garden centres were closed? Unlike a pair of jeans or a T-shirt, they can't be held in stock for a later date. Mountains of plants have already been composted by growers unable to sell them.

I'm not urging a stampede – be sensible and follow Government guidelines – but if you could pop along and support a garden centre or plant nursery in the coming weeks, that would be marvellous.

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