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‘I just want to buy my kids Christmas presents’: Scotland's Big Issue vendors

As level four restrictions are relaxed in Scotland, more than 100 Big Issue vendors hope they can save Christmas by getting back to work

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An official vendor of the Big Issue street newspaper on the streets of Cambridge, England, UK.

Scottish Big Issue vendors have expressed hope that they can still salvage Christmas as they return to work tomorrow following the end of level four restrictions.

When level four restrictions came in across 11 council areas in Scotland, more than 100 Big Issue sellers were forced to stop working. All those areas will see their restrictions reduced to level three tomorrow, allowing the vendors to return to the streets.

Glasgow vendor Paddi said he was desperate to get back to his usual spot on Sauchiehall Street, so he could make enough money to buy his two kids something for Christmas.

“We’ve not got as much as one present in for any of our kids,” he said. “We didn’t expect another lockdown, never mind one so close to Christmas. It totally destroyed any money we had put by, which wasn’t much but it was a start.”

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Paddi has been unable to make any income during the strict coronavirus lockdown. The small amount of Christmas savings he and his partner had were quickly depleted to provide the essentials and feed the family.

According to research released by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) earlier this week, more than 2.4 million people experienced destitution in 2019, meaning they could not afford two or more essentials that we all need to live, including shelter, food, heating or clothing.

JRF warned that figure was likely to rise to five million in 2020. Paddi and his family have sadly found themselves on the hard end of these statistics.

“I just want to be able to buy presents for the kids,” said Paddi. “If there’s anything left to get something for my partner, then good times. But we’re not expecting anything.”

Paddi said he had to hope that the people of Glasgow would support him to recoup some of the money he lost during the lockdown.

“I don’t know how sales are going to go,” he said. “After the last lockdown, for the first few days, people were quite wary. I always make sure my mask pulled up when anyone approaches me.  

“I am hoping that lockdown hasn’t put people off buying the magazine. I know a lot of people have lost their jobs since the second lockdown.

“I just have to keep my fingers crossed for tomorrow.”

“I just can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow.”

Fellow vendor John Airdrie sells the magazine in Milngavie, at the northwestern edge of Glasgow. He, too, was looking forward to being back to work.

“It’s been so depressing,” he said. “I just can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow.”

John has also been facing family pressures during lockdown. His step-father has been taken into a home after developing dementia, so John has been looking after his mum.  

“I’ve been struggling with things,” he said. “I’ve been worrying about my mum. My mum’s 78 and she’s got her problems as well.”

Getting back to work will offer him a focus, he said, and he’s keen to see his regular customers again.

“I’d like to thank them all for the support they give me,” he added. “I like to give everyone a Christmas card at this time of year. I’d already given out 280 cards before the lockdown.”

He’s banking on a Christmas rush in the last couple of weeks before the big day.

“I’ll be at my pitch from 8.30 on Friday,” he added. “I hope I’ll be busy.”

Deborah Prow, Glasgow sales and outreach worker for The Big Issue said she was delighted Glasgow and the surrounding areas were moving down to level three restrictions. 

“Vendors can now get back out to sell the magazine and make some much-needed income before Christmas,” she added. 

“It’s been difficult for vendors over the past few weeks financially, socially and with other mental health issues, all of which have been exacerbated by the additional restrictions.”

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