Warning tourism businesses “won’t survive” because of Scottish Government policies

Top tourism leader says businesses are feeling “very exposed”
Ben Nevis is a popular draw for tourists visiting the HighlandsBen Nevis is a popular draw for tourists visiting the Highlands
Ben Nevis is a popular draw for tourists visiting the Highlands

A tourism industry leader says businesses will be unable to survive unless the Scottish Government sorts out the ferries and changes its proposals for licensing holiday lets.

As the summer holiday season gets underway, the Scottish Tourism Alliance says many businesses in the sector are feeling “very exposed” because of some government policies.

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Marc Crothall, the alliance’s chief executive, said some of the policies are causing “more harm than good” for businesses.

The MV Hebridean Isles.The MV Hebridean Isles.
The MV Hebridean Isles.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Mr Crothall said the industry needs more security from the government on short-term lets.

Soon those running holiday rentals will need to get a licence from their local authority to operate - it is hoped this will help control the number of properties being used for short-term lets in tourist hotspots like Edinburgh and the Highlands.

He said: “Good businesses are closing their doors because they will not be able to trade.

“Licensing is totally inconsistent across local authority areas and the government needs to intervene quickly to stop any unnecessary consequences happening as a result of this.

“No one disagrees with licensing, but the deployment is concerning, frustrating, and potentially causing more harm than good.”

Another big issue for the tourism industry is the ongoing ferries fiasco.

The Mallaig to Lochboisdale crossing has been called off for almost the whole month of June, sparking demonstrations on South Uist, and other routes are frequently hit with cancellations and delays because of an unreliable, ageing fleet.

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This is on top of the new MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802 still languishing in Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, overdue and over-budget.

Mr Crothall said the situation was “unbelievable”. He added: “The regular disasters on the ferries are going from bad to worse.

“One colleague on Islay who has a small business lost £9,500 last week because of the ferry bookings.

“These small businesses are very reliant on a small, seasonal window and a lot will not survive.”

He added some tour operators are now considering axing the islands from their offerings because of the unreliability of the ferries.

This comes as the Scottish Conservatives are set to lead a debate on this in Holyrood tomorrow.

Liz Smith, the party’s finance spokeswoman, is expected to criticise the SNP-Green government for discouraging tourism and damaging the economy.

She will highlight opposition to licensing holiday lets, the ferries, a lack of superfast broadband in rural areas, and delays to dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness.

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The party will also use the debate to criticise First Minister Humza Yousaf for dropping a dedicated tourism minister from his cabinet in favour of an independence minister.

Ms Smith said the tourism sector is “absolutely vital” to Scotland’s economy, but is being “failed at every turn” by the government.

She said: “There is an anti-business agenda running through the heart of the SNP-Green coalition.

“They have failed to pass on rates relief to our leisure, hospitality and retail businesses which has left them at a disadvantage compared with their UK counterparts, and that impacts negatively on our tourism sector.

“The SNP-Green government has been short-changing the tourism industry for years.”

She adds they must ”urgently” produce a plan of how to repair this damage.

Richard Lochhead is the minister for small business, trade and innovation, however the Scottish Government have now also described him as the tourism minister.

He said tourism plays a crucial role for the economy and he is committed to making sure it prospers.

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Mr Lochhead said: “I have already me with a range of tourism leaders to discuss how the Scottish Government can continue to work with the sector to ensure that we deliver on the aims of our national tourism strategy - Scotland Outlook 2030 - and the wider aims of the national strategy for economic transformation.

“We have also established a regulatory joint taskforce to ensure we are taking decisive steps to support growth.”

He added the last few years have been “extremely difficult” because of the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit, inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, but said only the UK Government has the powers to change this.

Mr Lochhead added: “Despite these challenges, I am clear that there is a bright future for Scottish tourism, with the latest ONS statistics showing that visitors from across the world are returning to enjoy our varied heritage and breathtaking natural landscapes.”



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