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Tourism is 'the Cinderella of spending priorities', claims Highland MSP


By Gordon Calder

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A NORTH MSP has claimed tourism is "the Cinderella of the Scottish Government’s spending priorities".

David Stewart, a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, made the comment as he urged the government to invest in the North Coast 500 route.

He pointed to last year's study by the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University which examined the economic impact of the NC500. It found that the route had generated more than £22.89 million in gross value added during 2018, created 180 full-time-equivalent jobs in the north Highlands within the same period, and boosted visitors numbers to paid attractions by 41.7 per cent.

Sine then the pandemic has happened and Mr Stewart would like to see the Scottish Government doing more to help the tourism industry in the north and elsewhere in Scotland. He described the NC500 as "the goose that lays the large golden eggs" for the area's tourist economy but claimed more should be done to help the industry.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Stewart praised the part played by the road trip in attracting visitors to the area and asked Scotland's tourism secretary, Fergus Ewing, if he supported the call from north businesses to set up a growth fund to help them recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Mr Ewing replied: "I think the NC500 has been a great success but there are pressures and we need to deal with them. That is why the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is, I think, the right vehicle for that but I’m very happy to discuss with Mr Stewart, who I know has been a long-standing advocate and supporter for the route, how we can develop it and increase the benefits to businesses and communities."

Afterwards, Mr Stewart said: "Tourism has long been the Cinderella of Scottish Government’s spending priorities. It is last in line for funding and low in any list of concerns.

"If we look at the infrastructure we have in place for our visitors compared with what’s on offer in other countries, it is plain to see that tourism is the Cinderella. The government’s outdated perception of tourism needs to change and it needs to recognise the dynamic and enhancing service that it is today."

Highland business leaders at Dunrobin Castle after setting out the case for a North Highland Growth Fund – (from left) Scott Morrison, Dunrobin Castle; John Murray, Highland Food & Drink Club; David Whiteford, North Highland Initiative; Ian Sutherland, Go Golspie!; and Neil Hampton, Royal Dornoch Golf Club. Picture: Trevor Martin
Highland business leaders at Dunrobin Castle after setting out the case for a North Highland Growth Fund – (from left) Scott Morrison, Dunrobin Castle; John Murray, Highland Food & Drink Club; David Whiteford, North Highland Initiative; Ian Sutherland, Go Golspie!; and Neil Hampton, Royal Dornoch Golf Club. Picture: Trevor Martin

As reported last week, business leaders in the region are calling on the Holyrood and Westminster governments to set up a North Highland Growth Fund to help in the recovery from Covid-19. They say a long-term strategy is needed to ensure delivery of the appropriate infrastructure without sacrificing the "magic" of the area.

Led by the North Highland Initiative, the business leaders have written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove as well as Highland politicians Jamie Stone MP, Kate Forbes MSP and Fergus Ewing MSP outlining the need for a special economic recovery plan.

Those calling for a growth fund to help businesses and communities include Dunrobin Castle, Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Highland Food & Drink Club, Go Golspie!, Mackays Hotel in Wick and Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland.



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