Scots tourism industry rejects independence in vote

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Delegates at the Scottish tourism industry’s annual conference have voted overwhelmingly against independence.
Stephen Leckie: Financial case for independence not clear. Picture: Robert PerryStephen Leckie: Financial case for independence not clear. Picture: Robert Perry
Stephen Leckie: Financial case for independence not clear. Picture: Robert Perry

Almost 60 per cent of those who took part in a secret ballot at the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s annual summit said they would be voting no.

Just 32 per cent said they would be voting yes in September, while nine per cent of those polled were undecided.

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The ballot was held over two days at the conference, the centrepiece of Scottish Tourism Week, and attracted around 500 delegates from across the country.

The results of the poll emerged in the wake of the STA’s chairman, Stephen Leckie, warning the Scottish Government that it had failed to make the financial case for independence and that businesses were “punch-drunk” with the tone and nature of the unfolding debate.

The STA, which describes itself as the voice of the tourism industry in Scotland”, is staging a major debate on the issue in May. The organisation has more than 250 members representing around 70 per cent of the industry.

Mr Leckie, chief executive of Crieff Hydro, had predicted that the majority of tourism businesses were against independence over the number of unanswered questions and key questions over what currency they would be using in future.

He said yesterday: “The message to parliament is clear. We welcome the support you have pledged to our industry but please make your business cases very clear in anticipation of the referendum vote.

“I echo my previous sentiments that the tourism industry is representative of society as a whole. Tourism is everyone’s business.”

However Paddy Crerar, chair of the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland, dismissed suggestions from Mr Leckie that tourism businesses had no appetite for the current debate.

He added: “In contrast to Stephen, and whatever the outcome of the referendum, the sense I have taken from the many people and businesses I come into contact with is that they recognise that tourism and the wider economy would be better served by the aspirations described by the current Scottish Government.

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“They also recognise, regardless of political background, that the current government has delivered more attention to Scottish tourism than any previous administration, which has translated into Scotland becoming a serious player and leader on the global events stage.

“What frustration I have noted is what whilst those advocating yes are keen to engage as much as possible in their view of what an independent Scotland can do, those in the no campaign seem reluctant or unable to do the same for the proposition, which is a shame.”

Finance secretary John Swinney told delegates at the conference: “It is important to ensure that we can be proud of the conduct of the referendum debate. I want it to be an asset and something that we can be proud of.”

Tourism is one of Scotland’s biggest industries, worth more than £11 billion to the economy each year and supporting around 200,000 jobs.

The STA has been a vocal campaigner for a cut in VAT rates for tourism businesses - a move the Scottish Government has not yet committed to, although ministers have outlined plans in the independence White Paper to cut air passenger duty by 50 per cent to boost international connections to Scotland.