Devils Advocate: Should we have a McDonald’s in St Andrews?

"15 per cent of the student body hails from the USA; how can we deprive them of one of their nations greatest organisations?"

McDonald's by April Atkinson

Yes – Max Waller

McDonald’s would be a great addition to St Andrews, simply for the reason that it provides cheap and cheerful fast food at late hours of the night. Dervish, everyone’s favourite St Andrews drunk food joint, is no both no longer up to scratch and outlandishly overpriced, especially in comparison to McDonald’s with its Big Macs and 99p Mayo Chicken Burgers.

We do have two places where you can get seriously good burgers: Blackhorn, with their delicious burgers made from really good quality meat from a local butcher, and Burger on South Street. However, neither of them are open late at night, leaving us with only Dervish, Empire and Courtyard. True, Blackhorn does have a van that seems to be at every big St Andrews event, but that doesn’t compare to the idea of our own Golden Arches with its doors open 24/7.

If I dare say it, I don’t think Blackhorn is at much risk from McDonald’s anyway, given that it occupies the same niche as Byron Burgers. It is upmarket and more expensive than McDonald’s, offering better quality food (albeit for a higher price). However, it doesn’t stay open very late, and therein lies the problem.Leaving us at the mercy of Dervish’s chips which are more expensive than those in Blackhorn, and, in my opinion, not as good. McDonald’s would allow for a diversification of options above and beyond that which is already available in town. There is no direct competitor, and with a 9,000-strong army of hungry students, what better reason could you have for opening a branch? It would almost certainly be economically viable.

McDonald’s is often presented as being the worst type of factory-farmed, chlorinated-chicken food that you can eat. Yet, as long as the shops operate in the UK, the meat has to come from environments that conform to UK and EU food regulations which means that while the meat may be cheap, and is unlikely to be as good quality as the burgers at Blackhorn, we can at least say that it is probably untrue that the animals have been awfully mistreated.

We must also not forget the American students in St Andrews. 15 per cent of the student body hails from the USA—how can we deprive them of one of their nations greatest organisations? The furthest you ever get from a McDonald’s in the States is something like 140 miles, which for Americans is a small distance easily travelable on a nice open highway in a car. Here the only option for most students is to get the bus or train to Edinburgh, which negates the point of McDonald’s: its quick, cheap, easy food—which is why we should want to have it in St Andrews. It would fulfil two roles: firstly, it would be somewhere to get cheap food after a night out, and secondly, it would be somewhere to get food quickly during high-stress periods such as exam season. The latter role is arguably already fulfilled by Blackhorn and Burger, but the former, while we may have Dervish and Courtyard, is in dire need of further diversification. If anything, it would be good for the town to have more shops. This would only drive down food prices, as McDonald’s is phenomenally cheap, and — this should seal the deal — will have a card machine.

One of the main arguments against is that it would damage the “culture” of the town, but this is unlikely. Whether or not there is a Mcdonald’s is ephemeral to the whole experience of St Andrews. What makes the town work the way it is, what gives it its distinctive culture, is the fact that it is geographically isolated and because the people who choose to come here as students are perhaps those for whom clubbing is not the most important part of their student experience. Nobody chooses to go to university somewhere based on whether or not there is a McDonald’s there. They pick the place based on what course they want to do, and what the town as a whole is like. One shop is not going to change that. So we should definitely support the addition of a McDonald’s into St Andrews as it poses no risk to the culture of the town, will create good and healthy competition between other shops, and offers cheap food to hungry students.

No – Freddie Kellett


I don’t want a McDonald’s, sorry but I just don’t.

I grew up in a small village where all you could buy were newspapers and vegetables. I have lived a life free from fast food, partly by design and partly due to practicality. I think the nearest McDonald’s may be an hour or two from where I live. I survived for 18 years like that. I now live in St Andrews. A traditional town in many respects: the cobbled streets, independent shops, old ruins and extensive collection of old churches. In many ways, St Andrews is very similar to where I grew up. The novelty of walking to a supermarket still hasn’t disappeared. I can’t imagine what it would be like if we had a McDonald’s here.

Just because this is the way the town has been for 200 hundred years or so, that does not mean it will permanently be that way. I think we are on a knife-edge: the whole atmosphere of the town would change and very quickly and it’s far more vulnerable than we all like to think. We would be opening the flood gates to more and more commercialism and internationalisation of a small old town and I for one do not want that. Our generation more than any other before it has the power to change the high street to suit our needs. We now have a choice, we can choose to buy stuff on the internet, in a shop. We can choose to eat at a chain or an independent. We have power as consumers, and it is a power that we can’t ignore. Are there any empty shops in St Andrews? (apart from the sad and mysterious loss of Drouthy Neebors). As students, we support a huge variety of small business all of which would suffer a great loss if McDonald’s arrived. Huge unemployment and deprivation would prevail, not to mention the obesity and early death brought about by easy and cheap access to fast food.

If you look around us we are already buckling under the pressure. Costa, Starbucks to name just a few. It has to stop here. I know my view is unpopular, and it is hard to answer my critics.I do know that we have two fish and chip shops already, which is essentially the closest thing we have to fast food. It is hard to argue that it would be bad for the town’s health because with 20-something pubs we all have easy access to alcohol. But all those pragmatic arguments miss the point.

This isn’t about economics or any kind of consumer research. The way St Andrews feels to me and to many other people is a place that is a bit old-fashioned, definitely and tangibly in a bubble. I don’t want that bubble to burst; after all, that is why myself and many others chose to come here. I am proud of the bubble! A multinational in this town would be a crying shame and would definitely open the floodgates to more; maybe even Starbucks (oh damn we already have one of those) or a Costa or something. Heaven forbid the town grows and adapts to 21st century pressures – after all that’s not the St Andrews way. Now I think about it, there is definitely a suborn culture in St Andrews. Why do we insist on rushing into the freezing cold sea every year, or covering each other in foam? Or travel from the other side of the world to come to a place which has no train station or airport? Or make do with one night club for goodness sake! Superstitions are fun, and being backward is our way. This reason, more than any other I can give is the most convincing to me.

Yes, it stands to reason that a McDonald’s would be very profitable in this town, but that doesn’t prove that there is a need for one. After all, we have survived so far. I think we can make do with what the town provides for the sake of tradition. In sum, making a rational and reasoned argument free from contradiction is not really possible. But I think some things, especially the intangible should not be subjected to cold logic, but suit a more holistic Approach. So I don’t want a McDonald’s because I don’t want a McDonald’s. I’m sure you agree with me. Can’t you just go to Edinburgh if you are really desperate?

Drawing by April Atkinson






  1. Yes, St. Andrews should have a McDonald’s
    Born and bred in St. Andrews and always wondered why one has not been built yet, there is a Subway…!
    I think it would be a great idea


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