By Democrat reporter
Scottish Labour has unveiled the largest economic stimulus plan in the history of devolution targeted at saving Scotland’s high streets and tourism industry with a £75 prepaid card for every adult.
Jackie Baillie backs a radical scheme to bring people back to the high street post-lockdown and a Great Scottish Staycation offering a third night free.
The package is aimed at helping these vital sectors survive by encouraging shoppers and tourists to support their local economies, when safe to do so, and readdressing the balance following the boom for large online retailers. High Street closures started before the Covid pandemic, and have been exacerbated by the move of retail online during the pandemic – at the expense of many smaller businesses.
The first part of Labour’s plan would see every adult aged 16 and over given a £75 prepaid card to spend in non-food businesses within Scotland. The scheme would be time-limited, starting in June (or whenever it is safe to reopen retail) and lasting for six months, and could not be used for online purchases.
It would be launched alongside a ‘shop local’ campaign designed to encourage people to support their local high streets. Any unspent cash at the end of that period would be donated to food banks.
To jump start Scotland’s tourism industry, Scottish Labour would also promote the Great Scottish Staycation 2021. It would offer a ‘3rd Night Free’ Scottish Government funded subsidy of holiday accommodation across Scotland, including hotels, B&Bs and self-catering.
It would be accompanied by a ‘Scotland is open’ campaign to welcome visitors from across the British Isles. Any tourist travelling within or to Scotland from the British Isles in September, October and November 2021 would be eligible for the scheme – which would aim to support the anticipated green shoots of recovery in the tourism sector through the traditional off season.
The policy would apply to off-peak dates, including COP26, would be excluded from the scheme. The scheme will contribute up to £50 per person to the cost of their third night’s accommodation, capped at £100 per hotel room or £50 per person in other accommodation.
This funding would also help bridge losses to a sector that supports 217,000 jobs and is worth £11 billion annually. It is anticipated that by attracting people to high streets and Scottish holiday destinations, both schemes would help generate additional spending across the wider economy.
Jackie Baillie said: “The last year has been tough for us all. The pandemic has separated us from our friends, families and neighbours.
“But amid the hope of an end to the public health emergency, we must recognise that our community faces a job crisis.
“Without urgent and ambitious action in towns throughout our constituency and across the country, hundreds of thousands of people face a future out of work – with empty town centres hollowing out once vibrant communities.
“This is bold and ambitious thinking to aid our economic recovery and get Scotland back on track. Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond have a huge number of businesses in the hospitality and tourism sectors who will greatly benefit from these economy-boosting schemes.
“This scheme would invite people from across the UK to visit every corner of our beautiful country – saving jobs and creating a lifelong love of Scotland. I know how much tourists from across the world love visiting our local area due to all that the Loch Lomond national park has to offer.
“This is a chance to reward local families for their sacrifices in the last year and help keep fellow Scots in work to support our national recovery.
“A vote for me at this election is for a parliament focused on solutions, not divisions – a stronger recovery for every community and every family.”
Dumbarton from the air by Sean Davenport and Vale of Leven by Craig Jump of Turkey Red Media.