Development in Rural Areas

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1964.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith 12:00 am, 7th February 1964

I am glad to have the approval of the hon. Member for Galloway. We are, however, running into some difficulty on the question of the part that hydro-electricity will play in the future economy of Scotland. Last night we had an Adjournment debate in which we heard that one scheme has been held up because of the objection of the Secretary of State for Scotland. He has said, "Before we go on with any more, let us have some investigation." He has set up a public inquiry into the economics of hydro-electricity. Incidentally, I was surprised this morning when I heard one or two hon. Members referring to the need to subsidise the provision of electricity. The Secretary of State has said that it is necessary to earn 8 per cent. on the capital, and it is along this line that the inquiry is taking place. This small scheme has been held up for years because of the action of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

We want to know whether the Government are in earnest about development in these areas. This type of action by the right hon. Gentleman must cause fear in these parts of the country. From an employment point of view, the situation could be catastrophic. If I recollect the figures which were given last night, only a few years ago there were 5,000 or 6,000 people engaged in hydro-electricity work in Scotland, but this figure has been allowed to run down until today it is only 1,000. Hydro-electricity can play a tremendous part in the revitalisation of the Highlands, because as these schemes go forward—not only electricity but forestry as well—not only do they accomplish the job which they are intended to do but they provide a tremendous mileage of new roads. They make a first-class contribution. If we are to have diversification—and we must have it if we are to retain the people in these areas—it is essential that these amenities and supplies which we take for granted in the urban areas should be available in the rural areas.

My final remarks concern tourism. We have had a spate of disputes about tourism in Scotland. The Government suddenly produced a scheme by which it was proposed to tax holidaymakers in Scotland by imposing a charge on hotels for every night visitors spent in them, the hotels recovering those charges from the tourists. This seems to me to be a very bad idea, and I am glad that the Scottish Tourist Board has told the Government to think again before creating all this inconvenience to the hoteliers and to the tourists in order to raise the paltry sum of £60,000 or £70,000 per annum.

Tourism makes a tremendous contribution to the country's economy and we shall not encourage it by imposing taxation on the tourists. Certainly we cannot be selective and say that tourists in England and Wales shall be untaxed but that in Scotland they shall be taxed. This was a non-starter from the beginning. If the Government want to tackle this problem in earnest, they should find a reasonable sum of money for doing the job. Then the people in the hotels and in the countryside generally will be only too anxious to use whatever money is available to attract tourists and make them comfortable. But, while tourism has its part to play, pre-eminently the amenities that I have mentioned and the provision of reasonable opportunities to work in diversified industry are the only way to retain our people in the rural areas of Scotland, England and Wales.