Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart calls for fund to be set up to help businesses around the North Coast 500 bounce back from the Covid-19 economic recession
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A 'BOUNCE-back' fund needs to be set up to help businesses around the North Coast 500 recover from the Covid-19 economic recession.
That was the call of a Highland MSP when he made an urgent appeal in Holyrood today for financial support that recognises the importance of the route in injecting millions of pounds into the region's economy.
Highlands & Islands MSP David Stewart asked the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, if he agreed the touring route was “the goose that lays the large golden eggs” for the Highland tourist economy.
Mr Stewart was inspired by a study by the Moffat Centre for Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University which found that the route, launched in 2015 to promote less-visited parts of the northern Highlands, had boosted the north Highland economy by more than £22million over 12 months.
Speaking in Chamber today, Mr Stewart said: “Does the Cabinet Secretary share my view that the North Coast 500 is the goose that lays the golden eggs for the Highland tourist economy?
"And finally, does Mr Ewing accept the positive call from north businesses to set up a growth fund to stimulate a bounce-back from the Covid-19 pandemic?”
Mr Ewing said: “Yes, I think the NC500 has been a great success but there are pressures and we need to deal with them. That is why The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is, I think, the right vehicle for that but I’m very happy to discuss with Mr Stewart who I know has been a longstanding advocate and supporter for the route and how we can develop it and increase the benefits to businesses and communities along the length of the route.”
Speaking outside the chamber Mr Stewart says: “ Tourism has long been the Cinderella of Scottish Government’s spending priorities. It is last in line for funding and low in any list of concerns.
"If we look at the infrastructure we have in place for our visitors compared with what’s on offer in other countries, it is plain to see that tourism is the Cinderella. The government’s outdated perception of tourism needs to change and it needs to recognise the dynamic and enhancing service that it is today.”