Want to read more?
At the start of the pandemic in March we took the decision to make online access to our news free of charge by taking down our paywall. At a time where accurate information about Covid-19 was vital to our community, this was the right decision – even though it meant a drop in our income. In order to help safeguard the future of our journalism, the time has now come to reinstate our paywall, However, rest assured that access to all Covid related news will still remain free.
To access all other news will require a subscription, as it did pre-pandemic. The good news is that for the whole of December we will be running a special discounted offer to get 3 months access for the price of one month. Thank you for supporting us during this incredibly challenging time.
We value our content and access to our full site is only available with a subscription. Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device. In addition, your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards.
Just want to read one issue? No problem you can subscribe for just one week (or longer if you wish).
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives has met with local tourism businesses to discuss their concerns.
Douglas Ross MP held a discussion via Zoom to hear about the future of the sector from a Highlands and Islands perspective.
Among those taking part were representatives from the Oban, Lorn Tourism Alliance (OLTA), and the Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance.
After the event, Mr Ross said it was clear that hospitality and tourism businesses in rural areas had been among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
‘This meeting with local stakeholders was invaluable to listen to their concerns and discuss what further support is required,’ he said.
‘It is clear the SNP Government need to do more in order to safeguard jobs and livelihoods in these vital sectors.’
Victoria Winters, a volunteer for the Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance, said the discussion was welcomed.
She said: ‘The meeting was an excellent opportunity to have an open discussion about the current crisis.’
She said issues included official guidance being published at the last minute, the impact of Tier restrictions, and smaller hotels and ‘portfolio’ businesses which are typical of the rural economy not fitting into categories for support.
She said they also touched on wider challenges that will affect our future economy such as crumbling infrastructure – ‘literally, in the case of the A83.’
Also taking part was Donald Cameron MSP, the shadow health secretary at Holyrood and a Highlands and Islands MSP.
He said: ‘The feedback was very clear that while the furlough scheme has been a big help, too many businesses are missing out on other forms of assistance.
‘A common complaint is that the Scottish Government’s approach is too focused on the needs of big business in the Central Belt, and that smaller, independent family-run firms, especially hotels which are so important here in the Highlands and Islands, are falling between the cracks.
‘Tourism and hospitality is simply too important for the Highlands and Islands economy to be allowed to wither away, and Holyrood needs to wake up to the scale of the challenge we are facing here.’
The Scottish Government was approached for a comment.
Mr Ross added that Rishi Sunak, chancellor to the UK Government, had stepped up and delivered an extra £1.7 billion of funding to Scotland in recent weeks.
‘That’s money the SNP need to deliver to businesses immediately, in order to protect jobs that are at risk and to ensure these businesses survive,’ said Mr Ross.
However, in a separate intervention, Brian Wilson, a former Scottish Labour Party MP and chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, has called on the UK Government to abandon plans to end tax-free shopping for international visitors from the end of the year.
Mr Wilson, who lives on the Isle of Lewis and is a former UK trade minister under Tony Blair, has written to Mr Sunak.
He said that with retail and the supply sector ‘reeling under the effects’ of coronavirus and the ‘decimation’ of international tourism, it was ‘frankly, incomprehensible,’ to be thinking about getting rid of tax-free shopping.
He pointed out that the proposed measure would leave the UK as the only place in the EU not to offer it.
‘Since shopping is invariably quoted in every survey as one of the primary attractions for overseas visitors to the UK, it is difficult to see why you would want to discourage it in this way,’ wrote Mr Wilson.