Scotland’s tourism sector faces being “decimated” by Scottish Government legislation, sector bodies have warned.
In an open letter to outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, seven tourism bodies said the promises set out in the Outlook 2030 strategy, which pledged to make Scotland a “world leader” in the industry, must be protected.
The letter – written by groups including SkyeConnect, Destination Orkney and VisitArran – condemned plans to introduce legislation on short-term lets, visitor levies, deposit return schemes and a ban on alcohol licensing.
The introduction of a deposit return scheme, which would see a 20p deposit introduced on cans and bottles, comes into force on August 16, but producers have until the end of February to sign up to the scheme.
The letter addressed to Sturgeon said the plans come at a time of increased business rates, energy bills, and operating costs, particularly in rural and island locations.
“Tourism in Scotland has suffered greatly since Covid with staffing shortages and a well-documented drop in discretionary spend,” the letter said.
“To introduce operating costs at this time is at best naive and take little account of the financial impacts and mental health of business owners and their employees.”
It continued: “We are not opposed to sensible, well-thought out regulation that improves the industry and the experience of visitors but we cannot stand back and see our industry decimated by legislation borne out of political horse-trading at Holyrood.”
Jamie Halcro Johnston, Scottish Tory tourism spokesman, said: “This damning letter shows the real and growing concern among those who work in the tourism industry and related businesses.
“The SNP-Green Government is responsible for a whole host of regulations and restrictions that have either already been introduced or have been proposed at a time when firms are already facing enormous financial pressures.
“From the shambolic deposit return scheme to a refusal to listen on short-term lets, it is like they have almost been set up to make life deliberately more difficult for businesses.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is aware of the enormous pressures facing businesses and is taking decisive steps to offer support during this crisis.
“The Scottish Budget 2023-24 delivers the lowest non domestic rates poundage in the UK for the fifth year in a row, saving ratepayers an estimated £308 million compared to an inflationary increase.
“It also provides a package of reliefs worth an estimated £744 million, including the UK’s most generous small business bonus scheme and a revaluation transitional relief which will protect those seeing the most significant increases in their rateable values as a result of revaluation.
“An industry leadership group has been established with the tourism and hospitality sector to best understand its needs. The Deputy First Minister has also established a regulatory joint taskforce to consider the impact of upcoming devolved legislation and examine whether planned new regulations can be amended or streamlined while still delivering on their core aims. It will also consider longer-term improvements to regulatory processes.”
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