Covid: Scottish tourism sector is too big of a success story to be allowed to succumb to virus – Scotsman comment
In his speech to the Conservative party conference, Rishi Sunak said that “even if this moment is more difficult than any you have ever faced, even if it feels like there is no hope, I am telling you that there is, and that the overwhelming might of the British state will be placed at your service”.
He stressed he had a “sacred responsibility to future generations” to balance the books, but also said he would “keep listening, keep striving to be creative in response to the challenges our economy faces, and where I can, I will act”, adding: “We will not let talent wither or waste.”
As the Chancellor spoke, Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, was warning the coronavirus outbreak, lockdown restrictions and the furlough scheme’s looming end mean that Scotland’s tourism industry is now facing “large-scale redundancies”. Financial support, he said, “is not at the level it needs to be right now”.
Before the arrival of Covid, tourism was an essential bulwark of Scotland’s economy with UK visitors spending some £5.1 billion and those from overseas a further £2.2 billion in 2018. It employs about 206,000 people, which is significantly more than the oil and gas sector.
If there were any complaints, it was that Scotland was getting too popular with large numbers of tourists causing congestion in places like central Edinburgh, Skye and the Glenfinnan Viaduct, of Harry Potter fame, at the height of the season. But, from a financial point of view, Scottish tourism has been a growing success story on a truly global scale.
And it can be again – if it can survive the current crisis.
The Scotsman is well aware that state support on the extraordinary level provided at the start of the pandemic could not continue indefinitely and the Chancellor is quite right to think of future generations.
That is why he must reduce the level of support but also target it more closely on sectors like Scottish tourism and hospitality, which is full of talent that cannot be allowed to “wither or waste”. The UK and Scottish Governments must work together to find an effective and affordable way to tide the industry over what should be a short-term problem so that it survives to provide jobs, wealth and pleasure for generations to come.
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