Fergus Ewing: from travel vouchers for carers to new railway lines - this is how the SNP will bolster Scottish tourism

Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, unveils his vision for tourism in the country post-election and post-pandemic

Writing for NationalWorld Fergus Ewing outlined his vision for Scottish tourism post-election and post-pandemic (Getty Images)

Rebuilding a thriving, sustainable tourism sector will be a priority for the SNP after what has been one of the toughest years ever for our vital tourism and hospitality industries.

That is why we are backing our tourism and hospitality businesses with 100% rates relief for this year and why we will continue to push the UK government to extend the VAT cut from 20% to 5% till the end of the year as a minimum.

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It is also why we will support the recommendations of the Tourism Recovery Taskforce by creating a £25 million fund to help drive a strong tourism recovery.

The fund will help to provide thousands of vouchers for short breaks and days out to carers, people with disabilities and families on low incomes, and create a Net Zero Pathway for industry, focussed on protecting and enhancing our natural assets and delivering a low carbon future for our visitors and communities.

We will launch a campaign to encourage people to support local tourism and hospitality in Scotland as well as develop a global campaign for the international market so we can be top of the ‘to visit’ list when it’s safe to travel.

Competition in international tourism is tight and we must do all we can to grasp the attention of those planning holidays further afield, so we will also create a brand marque for Scotland, to increase our profile and secure our position as a leading place to visit and do business. Our brand marque and increased ‘Scotland is Now’ activity will help boost tourism and create jobs. We will also work to create more direct links to Scotland.

We have already consolidated Scotland’s position as the perfect stage for major events – having hosted the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, and the Solheim Cup - but we plan to go further. As we look ahead to UEFA Euro 2020 in Glasgow, FestivalUK 2022 and the 2023 UCI World Cycling Championships, we will work to secure more major events for Scotland, including a joint UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 FIFA World Cup.

We will maintain our increased investment of £6.2 million per year in the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund to alleviate some of the pressure that tourism can have on rural communities, and support a positive visitor experience. We will also invest a further

£10 million in wider initiatives such as rural hotel infrastructure and the deployment of Seasonal Rangers to encourage responsible tourism in rural hot-spots.

We will expand the Islands Passport to encourage more people to experience more of our islands, promoting more off season visiting and creating more equitable benefit for communities.

If re-elected, we will work with regional transport partnerships to reinstate or develop new railway branch lines across rural Scotland and commuter lines in urban areas, which will deliver enormous benefits to communities and the regional economy in terms of sustainable tourism and meeting our green travel objectives.

The SNP recognises that, globally, the aviation industry faces one of the longest recovery periods from the pandemic, which is why we will work with our aviation sector to help it recover and rebuild connectivity once we are able to safely lift travel restrictions.

The SNP has a strong record on championing Scotland’s tourism and culture sectors - they are not only central to our economy but also to our national identity.

To date we have committed a total of £9 million to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund to support jobs and strengthen the tourism sector, delivered over £27 million in funding to Scotland’s major festivals, invested £38 million in the construction of the world-class V&A Museum of Design in Dundee, and maintained free entry to our national museums and galleries, which before the pandemic, welcomed over five million visitors every year.