Peak Visitor Season (Disruption)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th February 2021.

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Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government what measures are planned ahead of the peak visitor season to avoid disruption similar to that experienced in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. (S5O-05012)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Our rural tourism infrastructure fund is already supporting 45 projects and 26 design grants across Scotland, with investments in car parks, waste disposal facilities and toilet provision, for example. We recognise the tangible benefits of the fund and we have more than doubled it to £6.2 million in 2021-22.

Last year I convened a group of public bodies to consider how we might collectively tackle visitor behaviour. A visitor management strategy for the 2021 season is in the final stages of drafting and will be published in the coming weeks. It will cover co-ordinated messaging and collaborative management at key hotspots. Our public bodies are working closely with Police Scotland on how they will tackle visitor behaviour in the coming season.

Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

There were unprecedented pressures on our countryside and rural communities last year due to the high volume of visitors during peak holiday periods, including in many areas of rural Stirlingshire, an area that I represent. In addition to the measures that have just been outlined, will the cabinet secretary provide an update on the progress that is being made towards the development of a holistic national visitor management strategy that would deliver a co-ordinated and well-resourced approach across the country to ensure that those who are responsible for managing our countryside locations have the capacity and the resources that are necessary during peak seasons?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I repeat what I said in my original answer, which is that the visitor management strategy for this season is in the final stages of drafting and will be published in the coming weeks. I absolutely accept that there were huge pressures in this past year. If we are able to safely resume the domestic tourism market—as I hope that we will be—we will be able to address those problems more effectively.

We have worked extremely hard with local authorities, national parks, NatureScot, VisitScotland and the police—many people are, of necessity and rightly, involved—particularly on tackling issues that are caused by the pressures of so-called dirty camping, toilet provision, waste disposal, littering and car parking. The tourism infrastructure fund has helped projects around, for example, Doune castle, the Fife coastal path and Loch Leven heritage trail in Perth and Kinross. We work hard with local authorities on practical projects that are designed to alleviate those pressures in some of our key hotspots, and that work is an absolute priority. I look forward to publishing the visitor management strategy soon.

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

In addition to what appears to be the most comprehensive set of measures from any Government in these islands, as the cabinet secretary mentioned, what plans do the Scottish Government and VisitScotland have to encourage those who seek to holiday locally this year and to ensure that attractions across Scotland can benefit from what we all hope will be an increase in domestic tourism?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

VisitScotland is working hard to provide a boost to the domestic market. Of course, now is not the time to proceed with such a marketing strategy—at the moment it is safety first, and caution is the watchword—but I hope that we will see a resumption of access to the countryside sooner rather than later. VisitScotland and I work extremely hard to promote the enormous benefits of holidaying in Scotland, as my family and I have done for a great many years, and of seeing more of the country; during lockdown, I have heard many people talk about that with fondness and pleasant anticipation.