Orkney and Shetland (Tourism)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 25th April 2018.

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Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to encourage more tourists to visit Orkney and Shetland. (S5O-02013)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government fully recognises the importance of tourism to the economies of both Orkney and Shetland. The numerous attractions of our northern isles, for example the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization sites of neolithic Orkney and Jarlshof on Shetland, are actively promoted by VisitScotland through its many marketing campaigns. VisitScotland also directly supports the sector to ensure that the potential from tourism is maximised. Other public bodies such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Historic Environment Scotland also play a key role, as does Scottish Natural Heritage, in promoting and enhancing the area’s natural environment.

In recognition of the fact that the popularity of sites on the islands and in other rural areas brings challenges to public infrastructure, last year we launched the rural tourism infrastructure fund to address those issues. One of the fund’s pilots, which was announced last month, involved £80,000 towards car parking at the stones of Stenness, providing much-needed facilities at a popular neolithic site.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

In the Scottish National Party’s 2016 manifesto, it pledged to reduce ferry fares on services to Orkney and Shetland and, last year, the minister stated that the fare reductions would be

“rolled out in the first half of 2018”, saving visitors up to £100. With only 10 weeks until that timeframe ends, surely the Government has some plan in place, or is that just another SNP broken promise?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I politely point out to the member that I am the tourism secretary, not the transport minister. I reassure the member that the transport minister is actively involved in the issue and I am sure that he would be more than happy to update the member appropriately. However, the member should take the opportunity of tourism questions to champion Orkney and Shetland and the wonderful sites that they have instead of complaining about an issue on which he knows I cannot answer.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I thank the cabinet secretary for giving a tour de force on the tourist attractions in my constituency as well as in Shetland. Will she join me in impressing on her colleague the transport minister, who will be in Orkney and Shetland this Friday and Saturday, the need for him to come armed with a timeframe for the delivery of the road equivalent tariff, which has been promised for our lifeline ferry services?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

We have a very proactive and committed Minister for Transport and the Islands, who takes every opportunity to ensure that departments across Government know of the importance of transport links and tourism to the island economies. As I have just said in response to the previous question, I am sure that the minister will keep us updated as appropriate. So, for the second time today, I can say that the transport minister is actively engaged with the issue and will communicate at the appropriate time as he has responsibility for ferries.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am afraid that that concludes portfolio questions on culture and tourism. I apologise to the three members whom I was unable to call, but that was a darn sight better than the previous questions session. I thank members for their short questions and answers.