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9 October 2019

(S5O-03646) Brexit (Decline in European Tourists)

4. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the reported decline in the number of European tourists visiting Scotland due to negative perceptions associated with Brexit. (S5O-03646)

The Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development (Ben Macpherson): The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs meets the United Kingdom culture and tourism minister regularly, when that is possible. Most recently, she had meetings in June and August to discuss a number of issues, including the potentially damaging impact of any Brexit on our tourism industry, in Scotland and in the UK as a whole.

Visitors from the European Union are vital for Scotland’s tourism industry and wider economy, so we will continue to raise awareness of our serious concerns. Six of our top 10 markets for overseas visitors are in the EU. Those markets accounted for 44 per cent of our overseas overnight visitors and for spending of more than £800 million in Scotland in 2018.

The Scotland is open campaign, which ran in March and early April this year, was an important step in reaching out to key markets in Europe to remind people that Scotland’s doors are open. It has been our best-performing marketing activity to date, reaching more than 80 million people—some 27 per cent of the population in key tourism markets.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the minister agree that the bungling Brexit approach of the UK Government is unlikely to create a more favourable impression of the UK and Scotland, and will limit the opportunity to recover from the £193 million drop in associated spending that has come with this decline?

Ben Macpherson: There is no doubt that continuing Brexit uncertainty poses a threat to Scotland’s tourism industry. Figures for the year to March 2019, which the Office for National Statistics published, showed a 3 per cent decrease in European visits to Scotland and a related fall in expenditure, and a recent study that VisitBritain published earlier this year indicated that 44 per cent of European respondents expressed concern about the uncertainty around travel arrangements, due to the on-going negotiations.

Scotland and the Scottish Government did not choose to leave the EU, and we continue to oppose Brexit. However, as a responsible Government we will continue to do everything that we can to prepare and to support Scotland’s tourism industry.

8 October 2019

Statement: National Islands Plan

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): What progress is being made to introduce other measures that are in the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018?

The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands (Paul Wheelhouse): I will flag up two main areas where we are taking forward additional work under the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018. The first relates to island communities impact assessments. Section 8 of the 2018 act, which refers to those impact assessments, has not yet been commenced. Work on the guidance and templates for the provision is being progressed in tandem with work on the national islands plan, with a view to ensuring that the section is commenced as soon as possible. Policy instructions are being drafted and officials are working to finalise an illustrative timetable. Ideally, the regulations will come into force early in 2020.

Secondly, as members may be aware, we are progressing the Additional Powers Request (Scotland) Regulations 2019, which were laid in Parliament on 5 July this year and which are the obvious next step in the implementation of the 2018 act. The regulations will come into force in mid-November at the latest, subject to approval being obtained from Parliament. Non-statutory guidance is being developed collaboratively with the six relevant local authorities and will accompany the regulations when they come into force. We recognise that there is still a lot of work to do, but a lot of progress has been made.

24 September 2019

Statement: Supreme Court Judgment (Response)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Earlier, Jackson Carlaw said that our Westminster Parliament will determine what comes next. Is that correct, in light of paragraph 60 of the judgment, which refers to the need to consult the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly? Would any decisions that have been made without the agreement of all the jurisdictions in these islands be invalid, as the judgment has shown previous judgments to be invalid?

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): Stewart Stevenson raises a valid and very important point. Obviously, in strict terms, what came next was not simply a matter for the Westminster Government; actually, it was for the Speaker of the House of Commons to decide that Parliament should gather again tomorrow, and I am pleased that he has done so.

I recommend to all members that they read paragraph 60 of the judgment, which talks about the consultations that are required with the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. I hope that, in any steps that the Westminster Government now takes, the principle of consulting the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly is respected in a way that it has not always been previously. Given the terms and strength of the judgment today, I very much hope that the UK Government will take more care over how it arrives at such decisions in the future than it has done in the past.

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