Islands MSP suggests '˜motorhome levy' for campervan tourists

An MSP has suggested to the Scottish Government that they should consider a '˜motorhome levy' to help Scotland's island communities deal with the vast increase in the use of the vehicles by holidaymakers.

Stornoway has seen an increase of motorhome users. Picture: Contributed
Stornoway has seen an increase of motorhome users. Picture: Contributed

The SNP MSP Alasdair Allan, who represents the Western Isles, revealed figures that showed all ferry routes to the islands had seen a sharp increase in the number of campervans and motorhomes on them.

Mr Allan praised the increase in tourism and revenue to the islands, but has written to Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, who also has responsibility for Scotland’s island communities, about the possibility of introducing a levy.

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Transport Scotland data showed that the number of motorhomes on the ferry route from Ullapool to Stornoway rouse nearly tenfold in under a decade, from just 143 in 2007-08, to 1,111 in 2015-16.

The Oban-Castlebay route went from 44 motorhomes in 2007-08 to 377 in 2015-16, with Mr Allan saying that forecasts for the current season expected to show further rises.

The former Minister said: “It has been a fantastic thing for our local economies in the Western Isles that we have had record numbers of tourists visiting here and enjoying our island hospitality.

“However, this success has brought its own set of problems and it is readily apparent that our infrastructure has not been able to keep up with demand.”

The call came after rows regarding tourism strategy on Skye, Scotland’s second largest island, after reports that police were urging tourists not to travel to the island unless they had somewhere to stay.

A tourism group said that life for permanent residents in Glenbrittle, which is home to popular tourist attraction the Fairy Pools, was a ‘nightmare for most of the year’.

Mr Allan added: “There is a lack of suitable sites for them, a lack of waste disposal units and the extra space that they require on the ferries has contributed to the capacity problems we have seen over the summer.

“While there has been substantial and welcomed investment by the Scottish Government in new and larger ferries we need to recognise the continued pressure on local people trying to travel in the busy summer months.

“This should not be about making motorhome visitors feel unwelcome. They are welcome. This is about recognising the pressures created on infrastructure by such a rapid growth in tourism and providing communities with a new source of funding that they can direct as they see fit.”