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Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie calls for action to understand impact of tourism following spate of incidents of irresponsible behaviour by some visitors

By Philip Murray

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A HIGHLAND MSP and tourism spokesman has urged a leading Scottish Government minister “to commission independent research into the social and environmental impact of tourism in Scotland”.

Green MSP John Finnie, who is also the party's spokesman on tourism, made the call to cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing following a series of recent incidents involving reckless behaviour from some visitors.

Mr Finnie said: “The present problems are not new but, perhaps magnified by the staycation. Whether it’s the disrespect for the Commando Memorial, the cutting down of tress for camp fires or the reckless disposal of human waste, some visitors have made communities across the Highland and Islands anxious and, in many cases, angry.

“All of these issues require to be robustly dealt with by local authorities and the police now and a clear signal given about what responsible tourism means.

“I strongly welcome the support that the Scottish Government has given to the tourist sector, during the present crisis, often making business-saving interventions. However, whilst the economic impact of Scotland’s important tourism sector is well documented, the social and environmental impacts of tourism are much less understood.

“This isn’t an exclusively rural issue. The implications of the non-availability of year-round, affordable rented accommodation, due to short term lets, applies equally to the north of Mull and Edinburgh’s Old Town.

“If we are to see informed policy decision-making we need to fully understand impacts.

“It may be there needs to be some sort of trade off. Who benefits from the promotion of the North Coast 500? It isn’t the bulk of the population on the remote west coast, losing lambs to those encouraged to think they’re on some race track.

“Likewise, who benefits from the large influx of tourist to our islands where, during summer months, some can’t get on ferries to get to funerals or get their livestock to the Mainland?

“Scotland is not a theme park or some living museum. Our communities gain work from tourism but there can be a downside and independent research will show whether we’re getting that balance right.

“My view is we’re well short of understanding what we’re actively encouraging and that seems reckless.

“The Scottish Green Party supports responsible tourism and are keen to see the Scottish Government have an evidence base to ensure that’s delivered.”

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