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I discussed tourism with the leader of Orkney Islands Council on my recent visit to Orkney to launch the Scottish Government’s Arctic policy framework, which contains proposals for greater knowledge and policy exchange between Scotland and Arctic countries in relation to sustainable tourism in rural and island areas.
The Scottish Government’s engagement with Destination Orkney and
Orkney Islands Council takes place regularly, through our agencies. Highlands and Islands Enterprise, VisitScotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage are all principal partners in the new tourism partnership group with
Destination Orkney and Orkney Islands Council. I offer Destination Orkney my congratulations on winning the working together for tourism award at the
Highlands and Islands tourism awards earlier this month.
I very much welcome both the Arctic initiative to which the cabinet secretary referred and the support that the Scottish Government is giving it.
Although the tourism sector in Orkney has enjoyed strong growth in recent years, Destination Orkney, which will hold its annual summit in Kirkwall tomorrow, has highlighted the challenge that local tourism businesses face as a result of the Orkney Islands’ continued lack of access to the cheaper ferry fares that are available to communities on the west coast. Will the cabinet secretary reinforce with her Cabinet colleagues the need for road equivalent tariff to be introduced on Orkney’s ferry routes as soon as possible?
The principle that tourism is everyone’s business also applies to my Cabinet colleagues who cover other areas of the economy. On access, I regularly and consistently make the case for improved ferry operations for not just Orkney but the rest of Scotland.
Liam McArthur is correct to say that it is important for
Destination Orkney to face up to the challenge. The matter will be addressed this week through the five-year strategy that is in the vision for tourism that Destination Orkney will launch.
I regularly raise with my Cabinet colleagues all aspects of such matters, including ferry operations. Only this week, I had the opportunity of discussing with the cabinet secretaries who cover other aspects of the economy the importance of tourism to all their portfolios, and I will reiterate that when I discuss the matter with the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity.