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STA Council Meeting 28th April

Representatives from mainly the accommodation and travel trade sectors met for the STA Council meeting yesterday.

– Introduction and general update from Marc Crothall
– Introductory comments from the Cabinet Secretary
– Update on support for businesses with a RV >£51k
– Round table thoughts on a phased recovery process from Council members
– Closing comments from Cabinet Secretary
– Summary and close by Marc Crothall

We welcomed Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Tourism and the Economy who thanked the STA and counterparts for the data and evidence we have supplied to make the case to show that there are a huge number of businesses that don’t have any grants or support which he commented, is unfair. A further meeting with the minister and core working group took place this afternoon.

Mr Ewing has written to Nigel Huddleston MP, the UK Tourism Minister and is continuing to make the case for continued necessary support for businesses who have a rateable value of more than £51k and also in relation the government’s furlough scheme.

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed the news of the Bounce Back Loans for small businesses of up to £50k max, commenting that he is interested in learning further detail of that but acknowledged that this is not the same as grant finance with loans still needing repaid although businesses will not be required to produce forward projections to be approved for the loans. Those that may have been declined when applying for a CIBLS loan should not refrain from reapplying for a bounce back loan.

Mr Ewing has been working internally with the Scottish Government and has suggested that the performance of local authorities should be made public in relation to the processing of grant applications.  The very act of publication of these results should, he said, be incentive for those performing least well to ensure that the money gets out quickly, which the Scottish Government wants.

In terms of recovery, he also acknowledged that the longer term challenge will be in establishing how many tourism businesses will be in a position to re-open and operate in the new landscape.  Some can be operated relatively easily and others not so and he acknowledged that the process of recovery will be complicated for the majority in the sector and will require a great deal of planning.

He told us that Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Fair Work and Culture and Mr Ewing want to have a compressive plan for each sector within the tourism industry, with everything thought through carefully and he made the point that many weeks of planning will be required before the lockdown measures are lifted.

The Cabinet Secretary acknowledged that without tourism, there isn’t going to be an economy in many rural parts of Scotland.  He acknowledged the reference to the Nordic market being one that might open up more quickly than others and commented that a lot of work is being done with Malcolm Roughead and his team at VisitScotland in identifying and agreeing best markets to target for recovery.

As regards immediate support for the industry, Mr Ewing is keen to ensure that the focus is on filling the gaps of support  – this he stated is “unfinished business”  and he highlighted the risk of losing the businesses that are necessary for us to have a strong tourism product. He underlined the aim of the Scottish Government which is to help businesses survive and for the effort of financial support to succeed.  He told us that this is where his efforts will be devoted over the next few weeks before we move into the recovery phase.

The full minutes from yesterday’s meeting are here.

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