Fergus Ewing has written to the Westminster’s sport, tourism and heritage minister Nigel Huddleston seeking part-time furlough arrangements to allow tourism businesses to continue essential maintenance and prepare for recovery from the ongoing lockdown.
Mr Ewing is also looking for more information about Westminster’s plans for marine tourism, which is particularly important to remote rural and island communities. Operators in this sector generally do not use business premises and therefore do not receive non-domestic rates relief.
Mr Ewing said: “There remain significant issues of real concern to the tourism sector here in Scotland which can only be resolved by the UK Government.
“There is a continuing issue with the lack of support for hospitality, licensed and leisure businesses with a rateable value over £51,000. Although not necessarily large businesses, these continue to carry substantial overheads even when closed; these costs are not mitigated by the holiday on business rates or the offset of payroll costs attributable to furloughing of staff. Indeed these overheads will threaten viability until lock-down ends and ‘normal’ trading can begin – even assuming that the business survives to that stage.
“The marine tourism industry has emerged in recent years as increasingly important, particularly to remote rural and island communities in Scotland. Marine tourism is largely seasonal and so cannot look forward to any form of autumn/winter recovery as boats are de-commissioned by November and not taken to sea again until spring 2021. During this time there is no revenue, only storage and maintenance costs.
“Furthermore, the restriction on smaller business owners/directors, who have gone on to furlough and are then not able to be proactive in protecting and planning their businesses recovery during this period, makes little sense and is counter-productive.
“Businesses would also welcome an indication that, given the ongoing nature of the current crisis, that the scheme may be extended. I know that this is something that has already been raised through the Tourism Industry Council and I am sure the one month extension to the end of June, which was announced on April 17, will be warmly welcomed.
“I have received many letters from tourism operators across Scotland both through the Scottish Tourism Alliance and directly.
“The requirement for longer term support is clear and there are worthwhile suggestions about how we might review our approach. I would hope we could begin discussions on such longer term support requirements in our regular calls.”