Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, but when said “speech” is misinformed and incorrect, one has to draw the line. And there is a line in question – the VisitScotland.com historic timeline, which has been the focus of The Scotsman commentators and the wider media this week.
Claims of propaganda have been flying across parliament and newsrooms across the country, however somewhere between the sensationalism, headlines and political debate, someone has forgotten what VisitScotland is here for; what the hardworking VisitScotland team achieves year in and year out; and what makes our country one of the most outstanding in the world – confirmed by a recent CNN poll.
VisitScotland is here to promote Scotland to the world. VisitScotland is here to advocate, support and develop the Scottish tourism industry, which is worth a staggering £11 billion to the Scottish economy.
Return on our investment in advancing this industry is £20 for every £1 VisitScotland spends – there are few other industries in Scotland that can make such a claim.
Promoting such a unique, complex and beautiful country is a huge undertaking with many ingredients combined to create the perfect recipe to ensure that not only visitors from the UK and overseas continue to visit, but that they have a great experience when they get here, parting with their hard-earned cash and keeping our Scottish communities thriving.
But let’s go back to these ingredients. The digital age is upon us and VisitScotland has strived to keep ahead of the game, ensuring we engage in new media, social media and website design.
Our engagement is strong with an avid list of followers and supporters. Visitscotland.com is also growing and evolving, and it is here that we come to our now infamous historic timeline.
Put simply, the timeline was introduced to add a colourful, heritage flavour to the website, especially as we count down to Homecoming in 2014.
Sorry to disappoint the sensationalists, but there was no political intervention or steer, just the VisitScotland team doing what they always do, every single day – seeking out interesting content to bring Scotland alive to the world.
A lot of the content was gleaned from other websites, some from books, but the main thread through it all was Scotland and Scottish. No propaganda, no political agenda, just highlighting specific Scottish information.
Like the rest of the website, the timeline is an evolving entity and is only in its infancy, having been on the website for less than a month.
It will be added to in the future – nothing has been deleted as many commentators have suggested – and the dates that have been scrutinised are taken out of context in a historic timeline that covers over 900 years of Scottish history.
Times are tough for the tourism industry, as the economic uncertainties in the UK and overseas continue to affect visitor numbers and spend, but one thing you can be sure of, VisitScotland will be here to continue to fight for this indispensable industry, to promote Scotland, and to focus on advancing tourism, not politics, in the 21st century and beyond.
Methinks the ex-Labour MP, Maria Fyfe protests too much in her expression of righteous indignation at the inclusion – in a recent VisitScotland timeline – of a reference to “a Nationalist MP who lasted all of three months” (Letters, 27 June).
This is a reference to the sensational Motherwell by-election victory back in 1945 of the late Dr Robert McIntyre who thus became the first-ever SNP MP; and although he was subsequently defeated at the ensuing general election in the same year, he went on in the post-war years to become a leader of his party and a highly respected Provost of Stirling.
His party, moreover, went on to achieve many more election victories so that, as I would gently remind Mrs Fyfe, it is currently running the democratically elected government of a devolved Scotland.
Whatever the result in next year’s independence referendum, the pioneers of the modern democratic Scottish Nationalist movement – like the late Dr McIntyre – will be eminently worthy of their place in Scottish political history.
Ian O Bayne