Local Authorities (Tourism) (Support)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th February 2021.

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Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what support it is providing to local authorities regarding any potential tourism-related opportunities arising from an increase in the number of people holidaying at home during the pandemic. (S5O-05009)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Provided that restrictions can be lifted safely, we are very hopeful of a strong domestic tourism market in 2021. To support critical tourism projects in our more remote areas we are more than doubling the rural tourism infrastructure fund to £6.2 million in 2021-22, bringing our total investment to more than £15 million.

We are also using consequentials and increasing our package of lifeline support for tourism businesses this financial year. That includes lifting our visitor attractions support fund to £10 million and the tourism destination and sector support fund to £1.5 million. Those and other tourism support projects are being delivered through VisitScotland.

Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

If standing orders had permitted, I would have caveated my question by noting the clear advice offered by the First Minister regarding caution about planning holidays in today’s Covid briefing.

In my Motherwell and Wishaw constituency we are blessed with a number of sites of historical significance. The Roman legacy left in Strathclyde country park is an excellent example of rich local history that is arguably overlooked. In addition, the park is a fabulous site for sport. How will the Scottish Government support local authorities to increase wider community awareness of and engagement with the local attractions in my constituency?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We are working closely with local authorities, the national parks, VisitScotland, NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland and Police Scotland, and we have developed a rural visitor management strategy. It has many aspects, including a welcome campaign; high-level messages about responsible enjoyment; and co-ordinated promotion of the access code, including messages on vital topics such as camping, fires and litter. That has been taken forward by a range of bodies working together, with a range of target audiences, including young people. We are undertaking a wide range of activities on the basis that we can—provided that it is safe for us to do so—resume domestic tourism this year.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

It has been some time since the cabinet secretary announced that bed-and-breakfast accommodation and guesthouses that pay council tax rather than business rates will receive support that is equivalent to the strategic framework business fund. That is welcome, but those businesses are already having significant issues with cash flow, as in many cases they received only small sums several months ago. Many are concerned that equivalent support has been delayed, despite assurances that the scheme will be launched very shortly. Can the cabinet secretary clarify for those businesses when the scheme will launch and, just as importantly, when grant funding will be in their bank accounts?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I can confirm that the plan is that local authorities should launch the scheme from 15 February, which is next week. I absolutely agree with the member’s points that bed-and-breakfasts are an essential backbone of our accommodation provision. They are small businesses that are run by people who work extremely hard, and we absolutely appreciate the great offer that they provide to their customers.

That is why we are introducing a measure to assist bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates; I am not sure that there is a counterpart measure elsewhere in the UK. Last year, we devoted—from memory—a sum of £3 million to bed and breakfasts that did not have a business bank account but were able to demonstrate that they were bona fide businesses operating as such. It is a key sector—I appreciate that the support is essential, and I am delighted that I have been able to work with my colleagues to ensure that it will be delivered from 15 February, which is next week.