MSP CALLS FOR SUPPORT FOR LOCHSIDE TOURISM AS LOCKDOWN EASES

By Bill Heaney

Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond, has called on the Scottish Government to provide support specifically for the tourism industry as lockdown continues to ease throughout the summer.

Yesterday, the Scottish Government announced plans to reopen the tourism industry on 15 July 2020.

This date is subject to change if the scientific evidence indicates it is too soon to do so, and there will be understandable apprehension from the sector about the staffing decisions they have to make; the orders they place, and changes they expect to their future capacity.

Pictures by Bill Heaney

Since the beginning of lockdown, Jackie Baillie has been holding a series of telephone conferences with local businesses in the tourism industry and Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Rural Affairs.

This is to ensure that voices from the sector are listened to within the decision making process and to allow local concerns to be raised.

Yesterday in the Scottish Parliament, Jackie Baillie called on Fergus Ewing – the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Rural Affairs – to support employees, employers and business owners within the tourism industry beyond the current Job Retention Scheme period.

She asked the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government to reshape the Job Retention Scheme so that it continues beyond the end of October as the tourism industry expect to be financially affected by Covid-19 long after other sectors recover. Baillie also called on the government to ensure that representatives from Loch Lomond were included in the Tourism Task Force that is about to be set up.

The local area, taking in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, relies heavily on tourism to support the local economy and many of these businesses are struggling financially due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Unless there is more help the area could lose as many as 1,200 permanent jobs and 800 seasonal jobs because of a reduction in the number of tourists coming to the area, and subsequently a loss of profit.

Jackie Baillie MSP said: “The tourism industry relies on people being able to travel long distances and having the ability to spend money on holidays and excursions.

“Social distancing will also create challenges for the operation of many tourist facilities.

“Local businesses in Loch Lomond and the surrounding area have been particularly badly hit in the last few months and they understand that this difficult period for them is far from over.

“Many are planning on the basis that they will not be able to recover until the new season begins in March 2021.

“It is vital that the Scottish and UK Governments provide support specifically tailored to the needs of those within the tourism industry. Businesses in this sector are going to be suffering from the economic impact of coronavirus long after other sectors have recovered.

“Urgent action is required in order to save jobs and protect businesses that play such a big and positive role within both our local and national economies.”

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