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Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone warns 'Highland Clearances will come back to haunt us' over tourism plight if further Covid-19 coronavirus support for industry is not forthcoming


By Alan Hendry

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The Emigrants statue at Helmsdale, commemorating those who left the Highlands and acting as a reminder of the Clearances. It is on the North Coast 500 tourist route. Picture: Alan Hendry
The Emigrants statue at Helmsdale, commemorating those who left the Highlands and acting as a reminder of the Clearances. It is on the North Coast 500 tourist route. Picture: Alan Hendry

A NEW kind of Highland Clearances is a big risk if the north's tourism industry goes "down the tubes", a Ross MP has warned.

Jamie Stone, who represents Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, has criticised the UK Treasury for being unwilling to engage with politicians of different parties on proposals for a specialised 12-month support package for the sector.

The Scottish Government recently published guidance for Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry which would allow reopening on July 15. Tourism secretary Fergus Ewing hopes it can resume from that date if the necessary progress is maintained to move to phase three of the route map out of lockdown.

Mr Stone spoke in a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday about the tourism industry in the north. This debate was granted after several e-petitions on the issue.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Stone said: "I fear very much that many of the tourism businesses in my constituency, even starting on July 15, will not put enough cash in the bank to see them through.

"My plea is this. We are going to have to have some kind of tailored package based on the measures that the government has rightly put in place at the moment to try and help the tourism industry through the longer periods.

"If tourism goes down the tubes in my constituency, frankly the economy will be damaged irreparably. That means that people will lose their livelihoods and the curse of the Highland Clearances will come back to haunt us yet again."

Speaking afterwards, Mr Stone said: "Parts of the tourism industry are planning to open up in Scotland from next week, but they have lost a huge chunk of their predicted high season earnings this year due to the pandemic.

"Despite calls from me and my Liberal Democrat colleagues, Fergus Ewing and indeed many of the Conservative party’s own MPs, there has been absolutely no willingness from the Treasury to engage with us on our proposal for a specialised 12-month support package.

"Persistence is key. I will not stop until I secure a specialised 12-month financial support package for tourism and hospitality businesses in the Highlands."

Click here to read more Ross-shire news.


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