Reopening will be ‘informed by operators on the ground’ says Ewing
SCOTTISH tourism secretary Fergus Ewing has moved to assure businesses that he is “acutely aware” of the dangers facing the industry and that the reopening of venues will be “informed by the views of operators on the ground”.
In a letter to the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) Ewing said he is “acutely aware, from my extensive engagement with businesses, including through the STA, of the scale of the crisis and the perilous state of the sector”.
The STA had written to Ewing to outline a number of concerns over ongoing support for the industry as well as the reopening strategy outlined last week in the Scottish Government’s route map.
In his response to the STA Ewing said he said he was aware that “gaps still exist” in the financial support measures available to the industry and stated that he has contacted the UK Government to push for more financial support for businesses – particularly for those with rateable values above £51,000 – and to express concern about the Job Retention Scheme ending in October.
He also stressed that the route map unveiled by first minister Nicola Sturgeon last week and which laid out a phased plan for reopening businesses – with outdoor areas opening first and other venues following later – is “a dynamic document” which will “evolve” as the public health situation develops.
“This may lead to some things happening sooner, equally it may lead to some things happening more slowly, however the guiding principle is that all decisions will take account of where we are in our fight again the virus,” said Ewing.
The full letter to STA chief executive Marc Crothall and chair Stephen Leckie is below.
“Dear Marc and Stephen,
Thank you for your letter of May 21 highlighting the deepening crisis in Scotland’s Toursim industry. I am acutely aware, from my extensive engagement with businesses, including through the STA, of the scale of the crisis and the perilous state of the sector.
“The tourism sector has been hit first, hit hardest and will recover last. I am committed to listening to business concerns as we explore how best to continue to provide support during this crisis.
“As you know the Scottish Government has provided an unprecedented level of support, however I am aware that gaps still exist. I am continuing to work with colleagues to look at further options, and to lobby the UK Government on the range of issues you outline, and to seek further support.
“As you know the issue of support for businesses with a RV of over 51k is linked to the UK Government approach, and I am pushing the UK to look again at this. I am also very aware of the risk around furlough coming to an end in October, and the particular impact this may have in this sector. Again, I will continue to explore this, and to make the case for an approach which addresses the issues you raise.
“With regard to sector reopening, as you will be aware officials are looking at all the options and are working closely with the industry to establish what may be possible. I am firmly of the view that decisions on this should be informed by the views of operators on the ground, within the parameters of managing the public health risk.
“As you know the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group has set up a sub group which is working, at pace, to gather information and develop detailed options, building on the excellent work that has already been done by stakeholders.
“Today’s route map set out the overall approach and phasing, but as the first minister said, it is intended to be a dynamic document, and I am in no doubt it will evolve.
“This may lead to some things happening sooner, equally it may lead to some things happening more slowly, however the guiding principle is that all decisions will take account of where we are in our fight again the virus.
“I am pleased that the STA is engaged in the work that Benny Higgins, as chair of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, is undertaking. The tourism sector in a critical foundation of our wider economy. I am in no doubt that, as we work toward recovery, and when the time is right, we will want further input from relevant experts, and will share more information about any plans as they develop.
“I look forward to our continued and positive engagement on these difficult issues and as we look forward to reopening the tourism sector as restrictions ease.”