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03/06/2020

Phased Re-Opening Out of Lockdown

During yesterday afternoon’s ministerial statement on economic recovery (2nd June), Murdo Fraser once again highlighted the need to allow self-catering to open up during Phase 2 with social distancing and cleaning protocols in place.

See below the official Report transcript below of his remarks, as well as the response from the Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP, who provides the rationale for the Scottish Government’s current position on placing it in Phase 3.

Murdo correctly points out in his follow-up that the Scottish Government (Deputy First Minister John Swinney during last week’s Covid-19 Committee evidence session) said it was prepared to assess the issue further.

Murdo Fraser: I have a particular interest in the future of Scottish tourism, as it is vital to communities throughout Mid Scotland and Fife, so I will spend the rest of my speech talking a bit about what can be done to help the tourist industry. In rural Fife, Stirlingshire and Perthshire, tourism is the lifeblood of local communities. Normally at this time of year, local hotels, bed and breakfasts, lodges and campsites would be filling up with visitors from the rest of the UK and all over the world. The enormous knock-on impact of not having that essential source of income is already being felt, and the latest business support schemes using Treasury money, either directly or channelled through the Scottish Government, have been absolutely essential in keeping Scottish business afloat.

However, a range of issues still need to be addressed. The first, which is an issue that I have raised before, is that there is a real question as to why self-catering holiday accommodation has been lumped into phase 3 of the lockdown route map along with hotel and other types of holiday accommodation. To me, it is self-evident that self-catering accommodation, whether in caravans, holiday lodges or cottages, can be run with socially distanced family groups, providing that there is deep cleaning at the time of changeovers, in a way that is simply not possible in hotels, guest houses and B and Bs, which have common areas.

Fiona Hyslop: The member raises a genuine point. If he looks at the overall route map, he will find that the underlying issue in deciding whether self-catering accommodation could be opened in advance of hotels for the reasons that he has just set out is not necessarily about cleaning and distancing in self-catering premises; it is about people travelling there. If people travel from one part of the country to another, that might have an impact on the infection rate. The issue that the member raises is genuinely an issue and, obviously, we will keep a close eye on it, but that is the rationale for our approach.

Murdo Fraser: I am grateful to the cabinet secretary for that response, although I trust that all my points are genuine. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s point and, to be fair, the Scottish Government has already said that it is prepared to consider the issue further. I strongly urge it to do so.

For many businesses in that category, the lack of certainty is their greatest concern. At present, they are unable to take bookings even for later in the year, whereas competitors elsewhere in the United Kingdom can now plan ahead. We hear a lot about people not being able to travel abroad and considering staycations instead, so there is an opportunity for the Scottish tourist industry that we should not lose. I entirely recognise the health risks that are attached, but I strongly urge the Scottish Government to consider the issue seriously and to try to give some certainty and support to businesses in that vital sector.

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