Heathrow Expansion (Impact on Tourism)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th March 2020.

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Photo of Adam Tomkins Adam Tomkins Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government what analysis it has carried out of the potential impact on tourism in Scotland of the recent ruling against building a third runway at Heathrow airport. (S5O-04248)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We do not hold sector-specific analysis. However, we are clear that, now more than ever, Scotland needs to have excellent connections with the rest of the world. That connectivity will be provided through a mix of direct routes from Scotland and connections to global hubs such as Heathrow, Dubai and Amsterdam.

VisitScotland and partners will continue to work with key stakeholders to ensure that Scotland is an attractive destination that is easily reached by our visitors.

Photo of Adam Tomkins Adam Tomkins Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer, but I say to him, with respect, that it was as clear as mud. Could we have a bit of clarity on the matter? Is the Scottish Government in favour of a hub airport at Heathrow for Scotland’s tourism and other economic sectors—yes or no?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

If Mr Tomkins had listened to what I said, he would know that I have already said that we need to have global connections through, among other airports, Heathrow.

Mr Tomkins might not be too happy about this, but I am bound to point out that it was under Chris Grayling’s instruction that the United Kingdom Government omitted to take account of its commitment to the Paris agreement on climate action in its drive to build a third runway at Heathrow. The consequences came at the Court of Appeal, when the project was refused permission to take off. If the UK Government paid more attention to the day job, perhaps it would not keep getting defeated in court.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Patrick Harvie, but he must be brief.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Is not the real lesson of the defeat of the unlawful attempt to expand Heathrow, in defiance of the climate emergency, that the Scottish Government should have spent the past decade and more reorienting our Scottish tourism industry around surface travel instead of schmoozing with the unsustainable airline industry and trying to win it tax breaks?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

It might not surprise anyone to hear that I do not agree with Mr Harvie’s characterisation of the matter. We have taken great steps to improve connectivity in Scotland. We recognise that air routes are one way in which visitors come to Scotland. Those routes are, and will continue to be, important. Scotland needs more direct air routes, which, of course, have many advantages. That is the Scottish Government’s view. Mr Harvie may want to cease aviation throughout the world entirely, but I do not support that policy.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio questions on the rural economy and tourism. I apologise to Jamie Greene and Joan McAlpine—if I take supplementaries, I am afraid that some questions get omitted at the end. It is a difficult balance to strike.