HC Deb 11 March 1960 vol 619 cc855-84

2.29 p.m.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

I beg to move, That this House welcomes the Government's support for the Scottish Tourist Board's plans for the development of the tourist industry, and calls attention to the opportunities that these are likely to provide for the growth of other industries in the Highlands. This is the first time, Mr. Speaker, that I have had the honour to address this House, and I ask for the indulgence which all hon. Members extend to those who have newly joined them. It is with mixed emotions that I have risen to move this Motion. I am acutely aware of a nervousness which, I know, hon. Members will understand and forgive, but I claim a sense of pride also because I stand here as the representative of Perth and East Perthshire, a constituency which, as hon. Members will recognise, is second only to their own. This pride is heightened by the fact that I follow Sir Alan GommeDuncan, whose name is honoured in this House.

The Motion welcomes the Government's support for the Scottish Tourist Board's plans for the development of the tourist industry, and calls attention to the opportunities that these are likely to provide for the growth of other industries in the Highlands. As hon. Members know, these proposals spring from a survey conducted last summer by Mr. Hugh Fraser, at the joint invitation of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board, into the possibility of expanding the tourist industry in the Highlands of Scotland.

At this point, I should like to draw attention to a matter of definition. As far as I know, there is no precise statutory definition of the area of the Highlands, and the description "the Highlands" is often used as a synonym for the seven crofter counties. As a result, some parts of Scotland that lie within the topographical Highland line, and share many of the problems of the seven crofter counties, are strictly excluded from plans of development that apply to the more limited crofter county definition.

Let me give an example. Glenshee, in my own constituency, surely is in the Highlands, but it lies far beyond the boundary laid down for administrative purposes. Similarly, hon. Members may go further west and take the road to the Isles, but they must pass Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch and, indeed approach Lochaber, before the Scottish Office will recognise their entry into the Highlands. I suggest that perhaps it would be less confusing if the seven crofter counties were referred to as the seven crofter counties and the description "the Highlands" reserved for the mass of land that lies within the traditional Highland line. It is in this sense that the words "the Highlands" are used in the Motion.

I was glad to learn in a letter which my right hon. Friend was good enough to send me that the Scottish Tourist Board's proposals for the development of the tourist industry will extend beyond the rigid crofter county definition and that a certain amount of elasticity will be observed. I hope that in time it will be possible to extend the area further, because there are many tourist attractions in, for example, the Highlands of Perthshire and Aberdeenshire.

The Scottish Tourist Board's plan has been warmly welcomed by the Government and it is taking effect with remarkable speed. It is a progressive scheme in that it is to proceed area by area throughout the Highlands. It is sensibly based on the co-operation of hoteliers and local authorities within those areas. It will be financed by a new company registered this week which will draw its resources from private enterprise. In addition, the Board is to receive a special Government grant of £45,000, to be spread over three years, for the administration of the scheme.

It is good to know that this area by area policy has been welcomed by those on the spot. This is sound commercial practice, and if the plan succeeds in the first two experimental areas it can rapidly be extended to other parts of the Highlands, with whatever modifications the experiments may show to be necessary. Already, a plan for improving the appearance and amenities of Newton-more has been announced, for which the Board is assured of the enthusiastic support of the local people. The bodies responsible for the public services in the area are also actively co-operating with the Board. The new company will make money available on loan for the building of hotel extensions and the like. Tomorrow, a meeting is to be held in Bonar Bridge to announce the new look plan for the second of these two experimental areas. The plan represents a tremendous step forward. All those engaged in it should have the fullest support.

The Highlands offer many attractions to the holiday-maker. It is magnificent country, with a variety and contrast of scenery that is beyond description. The Highlands provide a splendid setting for the sport and entertainment which the country now provides in abundance, and new opportunities for pony trekking and ski-ing are rapidly being developed. Glenshee, near my home, attracts nearly a thousand skiers each weekend. Lochearnhead is becoming equally popular for water ski-ing in the summer. The climate is better than is commonly believed. Some of the driest and sunniest places in Britain are in Scotland. However, if I am to avoid Dr. Johnson's charge that a Scotsman loves Scotland better than truth, I should add that some of the wettest places are in Scotland, also.

Scotland has not the accommodation for visitors which is necessary. There is not enough hotel accommodation, nor can some of the hotels offer the standard of comfort 'that is necessary today. The Board's plan will lead to the building of some hotel extensions and will certainly help hoteliers to improve their standards. In addition, the plans provide for the creation of caravan parks, thus catering for the many families who either cannot afford to stay in a hotel, or want to enjoy a simpler and more independent form of holiday. Nevertheless, if we are to meet the demand that already exists or can be created, I believe that we shall need twice or three times as many hotels in the Highlands as there are today. Also, the tourist season must be extended.

I hope that progress with the present scheme will lead in time to a larger and more ambitious programme. The need for this advance is clear, because the development of tourism in the Highlands can do a great deal to ease the problem of unemployment. The problem of un- employment in the industrial areas of Scotland is well known, and special measures have been adopted not only to attract new industry but to widen the whole basis of industrial activity in Scotland. Unemployment is also relatively high in the Highlands, but there the nature of the problem is different. The population is small and scattered and there are few large towns which can offer the facilities that major industry requires.

The future prosperity of the Highlands surely depends on the comprehensive development of the tourist trade, agriculture and forestry. The growth of the tourist trade can have a wide effect on the country's economy. I take only two examples; it can provide a local outlet for farm produce and also encourage the creation of small enterprises. Last year, more than 5 million people visited Scotland and brought with them a trade worth more than £50 million. This flow of new wealth goes far beyond the hotels and shops. It brings much benefit to agriculture, and this was shown by the records of food purchases of 14 hotels during 1958.

Their combined purchases included nearly 25,000 lb. of butter, 60,000 gallons of milk, more than 180,000 lb. of beef and mutton, more than half a million lb. of potatoes and 50,000 dozen eggs. These were the purchases of just 14 hotels—and there are nearly 5,000 hotels and boarding houses in Scotland. They must represent a large and growing market for Scottish farm produce.

As tourist traffic grows, so do opportunities for other forms of employment. Trade is created, for example, for new garages, or perhaps a new laundry, and new markets are opened up for tweeds, tartans, souvenirs and other products, that can and should be locally made. Of course, small enterprises of this kind may employ only a handful of people, but they can make a world of difference to the small communities of the Highlands.

There is another important aspect of the Scottish Tourist Board plan, and hon. Members may agree that attention should be drawn to it. There are certain places in the Highlands, and, indeed, just outside the Highland line, which would be immeasurably helped by the introduction of light industry. Development of this kind may be hampered, I believe, by a misunderstanding south of the Border of what life in Scotland is really like. For instance, it is not difficult to imagine a situation in which the head of some firm here is prepared to set up a branch in Scotland, but is turned from his purpose by the reluctance of his staff to make the move.

I sometimes suspect that the image of Scotland in the minds of those who have not been there may be rather bleak, and that they would be more inclined to encourage a business extension into Scotland if they knew more of the country. The Tourist Board's plan will provide improvements in the social and general amenities of the areas selected for development. This will undoubtedly attract more people to the Highlands, and I believe that the more they come the more they will want to return, and the more inclined they may be to make their homes there. This could also have an important influence on the establishment of other new industries in other parts of Scotland.

These are some of the reasons for the Motion, which I am glad to have had the opportunity of explaining to the House. I thank hon. Members for the courteous hearing that they have given me.

2.44 p.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

This is the first occasion on which I have had the privilege of following a maiden speech, and I have been in the House now for fifteen years. I welcome the opportunity today, because we are dealing with a Scottish topic, and I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Mac-Arthur) on the way in which he has handled his subject.

It was difficult to realise that one was listening to a maiden speech. The hon. Member had the confidence of a veteran. I felt as though it was he who had been here for fifteen years and I had come here only last week. I hoped and wish that when I made my maiden speech I had shown, perhaps, the knowledge of my subject which he has shown of his, and had been able to deliver what I said with such eloquence and to speak with the confidence he has displayed today.

I am sure that I voice the wishes of hon. Members on both sides of the House that we will hear the hon. Member again on a day other than Friday —which is usually quiet—when we shall be able to introduce him to the cut and thrust of debate and a little of the rough and tumble that sometimes develops. We shall look forward to his next contribution in the House.

The hon. Member has dealt with a topic that is very dear to our hearts. When I read the Motion, which he proposed so ably and so felicitously, I expressed to myself my agreement with its purpose. We want to see the development of our tourist industry and also the development of industry in the Highlands. He referred to the beauties that we find in Scottish scenery. I think that all of us, without being accused of partiality, will say that Scottish scenery is unbeatable.

One afternoon, three years ago, I was seated in an hotel writing an article. I was at the window of my bedroom, very scantily dressed indeed. I was wearing the minimum, because I was in the centre of China, and the sweat was pouring from me like sweat in a Turkish bath. Before me was a lake and rising from its sides were mountains. I was in the centre of China. For an instant I paused from my work to look out of the window and said to myself, "Loch Lomond". It was the nearest approach to Loch Lomond, with the Ben rising in the background, that I have ever seen, and, once again, it reminded me of the fascinating beauty of many of our scenic effects in Scotland.

I am loath to criticise hotels, but I remember one occasion, which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) will remember very well, when our Scottish Labour Group toured the Highilands to familiarise ourselves at first hand with what was being done by the Tourist Board about hotel accommodation and to see many of the things about which we shall speak today. We were all impressed by the rather inadequate facilities in many hotels and in one or two cases there were somewhat extravagant charges for a bedroom. We protested in Inverness when we were summing up what we had learned in the course of our visit.

Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said about high charges in some instances, but he will agree that the season is very short for these Highland hotels and that they are bound to charge more than they would like to do because they have to cover expenses for the year.

Mr. Rankin

I appreciate that many of these places are isolated and that their season is short, but I suggest that it should be the endeavour of us all who are interested in the prosperity of the Highlands to expand the season to include participation in winter sports. That is a possibility. When the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire referred to water ski-ing at Lochearn-head, I thought of what was being developed at Loch Lomond. I understand that this is a fine sport, requiring a sense of adventure and a love of cold water.

The hon. Member said that we wanted to develop industry and in that we are all agreed. He referred to tourism, agriculture and forestry as being industries which we wanted to expand. I am sure that it was an oversight which caused him to omit one of the most important, fishing. The shellfish of the Highlands are of a quality unsurpassed. I believe that they sell readily abroad; this is a trade which we want to promote.

We have a great deal to sell. How are we to sell it? I travel regularly to London on Mondays and back home on Fridays by plane and tonight I shall be flying to Prestwich on the Britannia which is bound for New York. I suggest that it would be nice if I could read, when I was on the Britannia, "Come to Scotland". Why not? This is a nationalised transport service and I do not see why it ought not to advertise the beauties of Scotland.

That might reek of partiality, but why not have, "Come to England" and "Come to Ireland", too? A little advertising in B.O.A.C, and in B.E.A. on European routes, would be helpful. I do not want to refer to other methods of advertising, which we all accept.

However, in all the parts of the world I have visited I have discovered the importance of selling the word "Scotland". Without criticising any other group in the House, time and again I have been a member of a visiting party often referred to as, "The English Members of Parliament". I always emphasise that I am not an Englishman, but a Scotsman. We have to identify ourselves in that way, because too many people outside the United Kingdom do not realise that Scotland is a nation in its own right and not merely a part of the English nation, although part of the English-speaking world.

Another notable advertisement was not mentioned by the hon. Member and concerns a very important girl, indeed, a lady, who will soon be surfacing after a long sojourn in the dark waters of Loch Ness; we call her "Nessie". She is due to break water again and her reappearance could attract thousands of people to Loch Ness to try to spot her. As everyone who knows the area realises, one part of Loch Ness, opposite, lnvermoriston, has no bottom. It is so deep that man has not yet fathomed its dark depths and it is believed that in that part of the Loch lives a "gentleman". Maybe this year, when Nessie does surface, there will be one or two little monsters coming to the top.

That would be a tremendous advertisement to people to come to the Highlands, because never before have any little monsters been seen in any Highland loch. This year, there is a chance for any visitor who comes to see not only the little monsters, but the big ones. I would not like to include among the advertisements the German bases. I do not think that they will help the tourist traffic in the Highlands.

What do we need if we are to advertise these beauties and get people to come to see them? We want better transport, and there is no doubt that in that respect the Government have lagged far behind. Roads and bridges are among our great needs. We are getting the bridges on the eastern side of Scotland, but on the west neither bridges nor ferries are sufficient.

We need more money. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Badenoch and Bonar Bridge investments. We welcome those experiments, but we must realise that the Government give the British Travel and Holidays Association over £1 million every year. Out of that sum the Scottish Tourist Board receives only £25,000. That is not a fair share. That sum is not much when one considers that the Isle of Man needs £50,000, and that Northern Ireland receives £60,000. If those two parts of the United Kingdom receive those sums, I suggest that the sum which the Scottish Tourist Board receives is inadequate.

I know that other hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate. I could speak for long on this subject, but time is limited today. I conclude by again congratulating the hon. Gentleman on raising this subject today, and on the way in which he handled it, and thanking him for the chance that he has given us, once again, to put forward the urgent needs of Scotland.

3.0 p.m.

Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)

I will not detain the House for very long. I join the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) in congratulating the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) on his maiden speech, and on the knowledgeable way in which it was delivered.

I welcome this opportunity to say a few words because of the ever-increasing importance of the tourist industry to Scotland, particularly to the Highlands, to which I shall confine my remarks.

In the Highlands we will always be dependent on agriculture, fishing and afforestation for our basic industries, but, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, tourism is supplementary to those three industries, particularly in the crofting areas where the crofters now have gardens and are producing for the tourist industry vegetables and other commodities which they would not otherwise have grown.

On Tuesday the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir. D. Robertson), who is present today, asked the President of the Board of Trade how many new industrial enterprises his Department had attracted to the Highland counties since 1959. The Undersecretary replied: Industrial development certificates have been issued to three projects new to the Highland counties since January, 1959; two of these are in Fort William and one in Inverness."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1960; Vol. 619, c. 231.] No new projects are to be developed north of the line Inverness—Fort William. No new project is planned for my constituency or for Caithness and Sutherland. Other Measures are now being introduced which we hope will help, but there is still a lot to be done.

We have not received the light industries which we hoped and expected to receive as more hydro-electric power became available. Perhaps we were a bit too optimistic, although I agree that there are a lot of other factors involved which it would not be proper to discuss during a debate of this kind. As we are not getting new industries, the tourist industry is all the more valuable because it is a live and thriving industry which is capable of development.

We know that large sums of money are being spent on developing industry in the industrial belt of Scotland. Perhaps not as much is being spent as some people would like, but nevertheless money is being spent on developing that part of the country. Our Highland scenery, which has been referred to already, is our best raw material. The Secretary of State for Scotland must impress on the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that money spent on developing the tourist industry will be a sound investment. We must open up the whole of our western area, particularly in the Highlands.

The question of roads cannot be over-stressed. The other day, a man wrote to me and said that the bottleneck at Strom Ferry, in my constituency, was a scandal, not only to the locality, but to Scotland. Only last week, somebody else said to me, "I am not going back to the Highlands until you improve your road system. I cannot enjoy your scenery. All the time while I was travelling in my car, I seemed to be going along narrow roads looking for a passing place. A big omnibus would come along followed by streams of cars, with a resultant delay of a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. My whole day was ruined and spoilt". This is scandalous and the Government must do more about it. It is vital to open up these areas and make them more accessible.

I should like to say a word on what might be called the Fraser plan. Two areas have been selected, but they are areas where development is already taking place. It would have been more ambitious to go to more out-of-the-way places, examples of which could be given by any hon. Member attending this debate. I will be selfish and refer to my own constituency.

Cromarty is a beautiful little area, but it has no hope of any light industry developing there for some time unless somebody with plenty of enterprise comes along. It is, however, a place which cries out for development. The areas which have been selected in the Fraser plan are more likely to be able to raise finance by other means, but in a place like Cromarty it is difficult to get finance. Why not be bold and use a place like Cromarty for the experiment? The excuse has been made that what is wanted for the experiment is a place that is developing, to see what further development can be undertaken. That may be one argument, but I do not regard it as the correct one. It would be much better to apply the experiment to places which are dying. The money which remains in these areas could be put by the local people into their own enterprises. Despite the small numbers involved, there is much that can be done in ancillary industries supporting the tourist industry.

In the two experimental areas, are the local authorities expected to find the finance for lighting, the provision of wastepaper baskets and everything else that has been suggested? There is nothing exciting about these suggestions, but I welcome them. If the local authorities are expected to provide the finance, will the suggestions which have been made have priority over other proposals that have been crying out for attention for a long time? I should like my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary to give a little more information about the financial aspect.

We saw in the Scotsman yesterday that a £100,000 development company is to be set up with, I believe, Mr. Fraser, Mr. Murray and Mr. Carnegie as the three directors. Will they lend finance at low interest rates? If people succeed in obtaining finance from this source, will they be debarred from D.A.T.A.C. finance? The people who wish to develop in these areas would like to know the position.

3.9 p.m.

Mr. Neil McLean (Inverness)

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks, but I should like to take up a point from the speech made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), with the greater part of whose speech I agree. I also support the point made by the hon. Member that the Government should give more money to the Scottish Tourist Board. I feel that in fairness, though, it should be pointed out that the Scottish Tourist Board benefits from the activities of the British Travel and Holidays Association, which works for the whole of the United Kingdom. I still think, however, that it is a valid point that the Scottish Tourist Board should have more money.

Mr. Rankin

That is what I was saying. The British Travel and Holidays Association receives over £1 million from the Government, and of that sum only £25,000 goes to Scotland. I think that we should have more.

Mr. McLean

I think that I am right in saying that the Association's activities in advertising the whole of the United Kingdom as a good place to spend a holiday do help Scotland as well.

I should also like to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) on an extremely fine maiden speech, in which he not only spoke lucidly but put the facts very clearly in support of his Motion. I am not sure that I should like to enter into a discussion with him on exactly where the Highland line runs, but I have no doubt that in the old days we would have found some very interesting and suitable method of solving that problem; and I dare say that a certain number of cattle would have changed sides in the course of the discussion.

I wish to make a few remarks about some aspects of tourism as applied to the Highlands, but, before doing so, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the position which Scottish tourism, and Highland tourism in particular, occupies in the economic sphere of United Kingdom tourism and, again, the position which tourism occupies in the economy of the whole United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire gave some figures about Scotland, which speak for themselves, but I think that these must be seen against the background of the United Kingdom figures.

I believe that last year there were 5 million visitors to Scotland, of whom half a million were foreigners, whereas the overall figure for the United Kingdom was 1½ million visitors. Since half a million went to Scotland, 1 million are left for England and Wales which, I think, compares very favourably with the Goschen formula. Scotland puts into the tourist industry a much relatively higher proportion than she gets out of it, though I am not claiming that that should automatically make us want more money. It is, however, a point worth drawing attention to.

The tourist industry's contribution last year to the United Kingdom economy was £220 million of overseas money. Of this sum, £65 million or more was earned by the ships and aeroplanes bringing these tourists here. Had it not been for the tourist industry, B.E.A., B.O.A.C., and indeed, perhaps other airlines, too, would be coming to the taxpayer for a very big slice of money. Therefore, these air companies should be grateful to the tourist industry for the very great financial support which they get. The tourist industry last year was, in fact, the fifth largest earner of foreign currency, and the second largest earner of dollars, cars being first and whisky third.

I feel that a certain amount of the earnings of tourism might, in effect, be transferred to the whisky industry, because the consumption of whisky in the United Kingdom by 1½ million tourists during the time they are here must be fairly considerable. I think that that could be credited to the whisky industry. I hope that my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend will do what they can to get the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the duty on whisky, not only for the tourists but for the benefit of the whisky trade and those of us who enjoy drinking whisky.

The importance of the Highlands to Scottish tourism cannot be exaggerated, because it is the Highlands, to a great extent, which make the sentimental appeal to the tourist; the idea of the clans and the clan system reaches out across the whole world. The hon. Member for Govan himself said that when he was in China, he had that nostalgic feeling for Scotland. I wonder how many millions of Scotsmen and Highlanders overseas, and their grandchildren and great grandchildren, get that same feeling? This is one of the elements that bring tourists to our country.

Of course, there is no doubt that the Highlands receive tremendous benefit from tourism. It provides us with a great many full-time and pant-time jobs for our young people. It brings money into the Highlands and it encourages markets for local produce, both agricultural and fishing, and also for such crafts as woollen goods and tweed making. In fact, as speaker after speaker has said today, tourism is complementary to our traditional industries in the Highlands of agriculture, fishing and forestry.

Another aspect of tourism in the Highlands needs remembering. It is that the money and the people that tourism brings to the Highlands will ensure over the succeeding years that our communications and rural services will be improved largely because it is acknowledged that their improvement will encourage more tourists to come to the Highlands and to the United Kingdom.

I wish to refer to what I think is the real root of the problem and also to examine how the Government and the various other people concerned are tackling this problem. I think that we all agree that the Highlands must attract a greater share of the steadily increasing tourist industry in the world. We must attract the tourists to the Highlands and, if possible, persuade them to come back again and to encourage their friends to visit us. Another thing that we must also do is to lengthen the season.

We must do all these things in the face of fierce competition from other countries, especially European countries. Some of the charter companies offer remarkably low all-in rates for holidays on the Continent and in the near future it is likely that air fares will be drastically reduced. Then, no doubt, although we shall run into severe competition from other countries, I believe that we shall be able to compete successfully with them provided that we can marshal what one might call our tourist assets in an orderly way.

The Highlands offer something unique. Reference to that fact has been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House today. The Highlands can offer scenery that is unique and sport of various kinds. I believe that the Highlands should and can offer adequate accommodation. In due course I hope that we can offer adequate communications, for proper communications are essential if we are to have a prosperous tourist industry.

I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland was quite right to ask Mr. Hugh Fraser to undertake a survey on behalf of the Scottish Tourist Board and to produce a plan and some ideas for expanding the tourist industry. I do not propose to go into the details of the Fraser plan, but I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House wish it every success.

Although I am a strong Unionist and a believer in private enterprise, I am bound to say that as I see it the Government have a very big rôle to play in the development of tourism. I would urge my hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to put their hands in their pockets, because money spent in this direction would be a good investment. They should not be frightened of being called Socialists because they intervene too much in the matter.

I believe that it is through the Scottish Tourist Board, the Government and the local associations, as well as through private enterprise and capital, that tourism must be expanded. I wish here to pay tribute to the work that has been done by the Scottish Tourist Board, especially in the Highlands, where, under a very lively and energetic manager, who is, I am glad to say a fellow clansman of mine, Colonel McLean, it has made very great progress in the North.

I also wish fully to support—and I think that hon. Members on both sides would agree with this—the formation of the local tourist associations which have the necessary local knowledge and which encourage local people to play an active part in developing the tourist industry. I hope that it will be possible for the Scottish Office to ensure that these local tourist associations can obtain limited funds from the county councils, or arrange that the necessary legislation is passed so that district councils will be able to allot small sums out of the rates to them for the purpose of advertising local amenities.

There is in my constituency, on the Island of Skye, one of these local associations—the Skye Tourist Association, which was formed several years ago and has had a remarkable success. It was, perhaps, one of the forerunners of what I now hope will be many such local associations. This association, of course, started "Skye Week" as part of its activities, and I think that hon. Members on both sides would wish to pay tribute to the work done by Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod in the interests of tourism in Skye.

Another local association started some time ago, which has worked with a great deal of success, is the Cairngorm Winter Sports Development Association. I remember that, when we discussed this matter in the Scottish Grand Committee, four years ago, I urged strongly that the Government should give a grant of money to help construct a certain road, and hon. Members opposite added their support. After a delay of some years the Government have given the grant and now the scheme is going ahead. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) and I are doing all we can to encourage the Government to help the various proposals the association put forward in order to develop even further the winter sports. I hope that there will be a ski-lift there in the not-too-distant future, since this will help to attract many more people to the area.

There are now various other local associations throughout the country. Another association, formed recently, is the Loch Ness Tourist Association. As the hon. Member for Govan said, the Loch Ness monster is an attraction and if MacBraynes would put on pleasure trips on Loch Ness, I think that they would make money. Perhaps my hon. Friend will consider urging MacBraynes to do that. We hope also that the Lochaber Tourist Association will one day be able to introduce a lift up Ben Nevis.

What else do the Highlands offer the tourists? We know that they offer unique scenery, splendid sport and a great deal of romantic history. I am very grateful for the work of the National Trust, especially on the battlefield of Culloden Moor, in making it possible for tourists to see this tragic and historic battlefield. I believe that such a scheme helps the tourist industry, and, moreover, it is very appropriate that it should be done. Here I should like to pay tribute to the man who, for nearly fifty years, has been the guardian of Culloden Moor battlefield. I talk of Mr. Nicholson, the secretary of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, who, almost on his own, with the help of only a few other volunteers, has looked after this place and prevented it falling into decay.

There are the Highland Games, the "mods"—or Gaelic concert, shinty and golf, which are an attraction for the tourist. Here again, I am sure that hon. Members opposite will support me when I say that there is much to be done in further providing for animal and bird watching in the nature reserves. I am sure that this hobby could be associated with tourism more than it is at present. I believe that, if it were explained to the tourist what he could do without disturbing the balance of nature or the habits of the animals, we should find him most co-operative.

I come now to the question which hon. Members have already raised. Do we give tourists good enough accommodation? I think that the hoteliers and bed and breakfast people have risen remarkably well to the challenge, but, at the same time, there is no doubt that they will be facing fiercer competition and they will probably have to improve and extend their premises. In doing this, no one must lose sight of the fact that what the tourist comes to Scotland for is not luxury, but good food, perhaps rather simple traditional food, well cooked, with a clean room and adequate washing facilities. Above all, we must beware against the tourist being swindled or overcharged. He must be treated with honesty and politeness. If he is overcharged, he will not come back, and he will tell his friends what a bad time he had in Scotland.

I wish to ask my hon. Friend how many applications he has received from the Highlands and from the seven crofter counties and from Inverness in connection with the expansion of hotel businesses under D.A.T.A.C., and how many have been accepted, how many refused and how many came from hotel keepers or people connected with the tourist trade. I do not expect an answer today, but I hope that in due course he will be able to provide that information. I hope that under the new legislation, procedure and regulations will be more flexible than under the D.A.T.A.C. procedure.

May I also ask my hon Friend, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to use their influence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to persuade him to examine sympathetically the possibility of removing the Purchase Tax on equipment needed in the hotel business. For, after all, they are the tools of trade for these people. I hope, also, that sympathetic examination can be given to the possibility of an investment allowance for the hotel business the same way as it is provided for other industries. To the bed and breakfast people and the crofters the most important thing, in my opinion, is that the Government should push ahead with schemes for the provision of piped water, electricity and roads.

I would draw the attention of my hon. Friend to the urgent problem of the provision of camping sites about which I think something has to be done this year. I have heard about a scheme for Glen Benbrittle, in Skye, and I hope that the necessary arrangements, such as the laying on of piped water, can be carried out as soon as possible. I hope that under the new Bill, which, I understand, is soon to be presented, local authorities will be enabled to be more active in providing other such sites as this.

I have taken up a good deal of the time of the House, but, even so, I have not got to the most important problem of the tourist trade. This is that the Government must get on with the developing of all means of communication, sea, land and air, to allow tourism to develop properly. But I must conclude before expanding on this in order to give other hon. Members an opportunity to take part in the debate.

3.27 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

I wish strongly to support the Motion which has been presented so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) in a fluent maiden speech on which I join with other hon. Members in congratulating him. I welcome the recognition by the Government of the wide prospects for the tourist industry in Scotland and I hope there will be further encouragement in this direction.

In Scotland, we have resources in our scenery, lochs, hills and open spaces which can give pleasure to many thousands of people, particularly city dwellers, and, at the same time, provide a means of bringing employment and prosperity to areas where these are needed. The efforts of the Scottish Tourist Board should be encouraged, not least by the Government.

I wish to draw particular attention to the move the Board has made in opening information offices in industrial areas in the North of England. I understand that in those areas it is difficult to find the kind of open spaces which are found in Scotland. The beaches there are crowded whereas in Scotland there are huge expanses of sandy beaches which are unpopulated in the summer.

The bringing of information to these industrial areas in the North of England, not very far from the Scottish areas which tourists can enjoy, will help people to enjoy holidays which are becoming more and more within their means and enable them to enjoy sport and the pleasure of hills and open countryside.

I want to make some suggestions for future improvements. First, much more information could be provided in London and other centres of population about the attractions of Scotland, and the way in which holidays can be planned there. This information should be made more easily available. It should include details of trains, ferries, hotels, boarding houses, and other information needed in the planning of a holiday. I have often heard of people who had been planning to have a holiday in Scotland and then decided to go elsewhere because they could not find out enough about the places to which they were thinking of going, 500 or 600 miles away.

Secondly, an improvement in roads and ferries is imperative, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod).

Thirdly, there is a need for more co-operation. Where hotel managers and traders have co-operated, great increases have been made in the number of tourists coming to the area concerned. In my constituency, the Moray Firth hoteliers and traders got together, and in the following year this resulted in a 25 per cent. increase in the number of tourists visiting the area. The same thing has been done in the Strathspey area. Government help and encouragement is also required, especially for new schemes which are starting, and I would make that as the fourth suggestion.

I also want to refer to the winter sports aspect of the matter, because if a second tourist season can be provided in those areas where winter sports are possible employment prospects will be greatly increased. I have spent some time in Austria and have been able to study the tourist industry there. That industry is a major factor in Austria's balance of payments. If we encouraged winter sports, admittedly on a very much smaller scale, we could provide a second season in several areas in Scotland.

The Cairngorm Winter Sports Development Board has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. McLean). The Board has to make some financial outlay to provide ski-lifts and other fixed equipment, such as shelters, which are required in connection with winter sports. Ski-ing is a popular sport. Many people in the North of England and the South of Scotland are finding that taking up the new sport of ski-ing can be well within their means. I have never done any ski-ing, and never will owing to disablement, so I speak as an observer, on the sidelines. It is encouraging to see that many people have been coming to the Cairngorms, especially this winter, and many are learning to ski. Learning involves a certain amount of falling down, I understand, and it is much cheaper to learn in Scotland than after an expensive journey abroad; and half of the short period may possibly be spent in plaster.

Local subscribers have got together and provided sums of money, for which they are to be commended, and the Government have helped in the Cairngorm area by providing a road. But I would urge that more help should be forthcoming, both private and from the Government, to establish a winter sports area to which hundreds and thousands of people can come in future. Our resources in scenery, in the energy of the people, and also in the weather— which is sometimes unduly maligned— can be made to serve Scotland and her people, and to bring tourists there to enjoy holidays and sport, at the same time helping to provide employment.

3.34 p.m.

Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)

I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) upon a magnificent speech. I want to refer to one point he made about the Highlands area, which covers what are known in Parliament as the seven crofter counties. They conform closely to the old Highland line, but I am sure that no hon. Member representing a crofter county would grudge bringing into the Highland area a district of a similar type so that it may share the advantages.

The appointment of the new company, under Mr. Hugh Fraser, Major R. A. Murray and Mr. David Carnegie, is a step in the right direction. The Board of Trade machine has failed lamentably, as has the Scottish Office machine, to attract industry to the Highlands—or to attract tourists, for that matter. The new machine may help to fill the gap. Major Murray and Mr. Carnegie are elderly men. I understand that they have retired from business. The other seven or eight members, I suggest, should be selected from among up-and-coming men who have proved themselves in industry in the Lowlands of Scotland. If that is done we shall get a very effective machine.

The only other thing that I want to say at this very late hour is that I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) for making it possible for me to speak at this late stage of the debate. Almost every hon. Member who has spoken has had to hurry and gabble his speech, as the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) and others have had to do, and I must protest most vigorously that on a Friday afternoon over a dozen hon. Members have been allowed only one and a half hours to discuss 47 per cent. of Scotland—which is what the Highland area means—on a Private Member's Motion. I do not find fault with my hon. Friend for raising this subject. He was right to do so, but one cannot but help get the impression that the Government do not want a proper debate. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support the plea I make, because I think it is in the interests of good government.

3.36 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

We shall undoubtedly turn our attention on another occasion to the tourist industry in Scotland, particularly when it is tied up with the industrial requirements of that country. I feel sure that this debate will not be regarded by any hon. Member as being a satisfying discussion on this subject for the year 1960.

I should like to join with other hon. Members in congratulating most cordially the hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) on his maiden speech. I do not use notes very much for the purposes of my speeches in this House. I think that the hon. Member used fewer notes for his maiden speech today than any other hon. Member, including myself, who has participated in the debate. It was a remarkable maiden speech. It is common form to congratulate an hon. Member on making his maiden speech, but there have been few occasions on which the congratulations of the House have been better deserved.

What are the needs of the tourists who go to Scotland? The principal need is transport and the availability of communications. There is no point in going to the Highlands to stay put. One goes to the Highlands to move about, but one finds it exceedingly difficult to move about in the Highlands. The whole of the North-West of Scotland is virtually inaccessible to tourists.

I have taken the trouble to go there as a tourist to find out how I would fare. I have also gone there officially when preparations were made for me before I got there. I have since gone as a tourist to see how people get on who are endeavouring to cover that part of the country as tourists.

Most of the tourists whom one finds in that part of the country say, "Never again." Why? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) was absolutely right. It is because they have been so scared driving along those little 9 ft. and 10 ft. roads, sometimes looking over a rocky precipice, that they have not been able to enjoy the scenery which they went there to see. Frequently they have to drive into the passing places. When they get back on the ordinary highway they say, "We will never go back there again."

If one goes with a caravan trailing behind one's car and goes along a little 9 ft. road with passing places every hundred yards or so one finds it very hard work. One may just have passed a passing place, when a bus or a lorry, or a motor coach carrying tourists, comes round the turning and one has to get back. It is not very easy with a trailer behind the car to get back along a little 9 ft. roadway, perhaps overlooking a very steep precipice close to the side. It is really a frightening experience.

I do not know of any other country which is catering for tourists which does so little about its roads as we do about our Highland roads. Some reference has been made to the contribution by the Government to the Tourist Board in the Isle of Man and the Tourist Board in Northern Ireland. I do not know what contribution is made by the Government of Eire to the Tourist Board there, but the Irish Tourist Board has certainly gone to work. Last year I went over on tour in Ireland to have a look around and to see what they had been able to provide in the way of attractions for tourists on the west coast of Ireland, which is similar to the West Highlands of Scotland in that the whole terrain is very similar, and the people are very similar. I did not see any roads on the west coast of Ireland anything like the kind of tracks I had to use in the Highlands of Scotland. They have got decent roads all the way. This cost the Irish Government a lot of money, but they are being rewarded by the tremendous increase in tourist traffic.

This is the very first thing we have got to do. Mr. Hugh Fraser and his Committee will not meet with the success they otherwise would unless the Govern- ment get ahead with the construction of new roads. It is lamentable that, as the Government themselves say in their latest White Paper dealing with the Highlands, they are expecting that only by 1965–66 will the crofter counties scheme launched in 1936 be getting near to completion: not that it will be completed after thirty years, but that it will be Hearing completion. Between now and then, in the next five or six years, they are still going on building roads 9 ft. or 10 ft. wide. It is inconceivable that the Government should be providing roads of this size and of this kind in this country in the second half of the twentieth century. That, therefore, is the greatest need at present.

Most of our tourists will come by car and by motor coach. There is no doubt about that. We ought to have improved facilities, of course, for them to come by sea, and we discussed this quite a bit on a Bill which has just left this House for another place. However, most of them will come by road. Most of them will travel about the Highlands by road, using cars or motor coaches, and we have to make it very much easier for them to do so than it is at present.

Most of the tourists, particularly those from overseas, who come to visit the Highlands, are not going to participate in our sports, about which I should like to say something because they are very important. They come just to look round, just to see, just to move about. While it may be that hon. Members well acquainted with the Highlands know virtually all the hotels and every hotelier by name, and may be able to make arrangements for accommodation while they are up there, that is very difficult for the stranger. It is terribly difficult for the stranger to find accommodation in the Highlands. We do not have anything like enough hotels or other places providing accommodation.

People who are moving about in the Highlands by car or motor coach, particularly those who go by car, are not dressed up. They wear jerseys and slacks—and sometimes they have been under their cars. They are not very well dressed, and they do not want to be well dressed. They may have some nice clothes in a case in the boot of the car, but when they arrive at the place where they want to spend the evening, when they arrive at about six or seven o'clock, they want to be able to have a meal and laze about in the clothes they have on, and they do not want to have to spend a fortune on accommodation. They do not want to pay London prices for overnight accommodation.

We must have something on the lines of a motel. This has been tried here and there, but there must be more. There must be simple accommodation where one can have a simple meal and refreshment and laze about, not necessarily in great comfort but in reasonable shelter and at a reasonable price. The prices are far too high at some of the places that are comfortable. I do not want to name the hotels but I have some in mind because I have had to pay those prices. The ordinary tourist who has spent more on getting to the Highlands than would have taken him to the Continent should not be asked to pay exorbitant prices for the rather simple accommodation and simple food he needs.

I know that the Scottish Tourist Board has this in mind and that the Crofters Commission has given thought to it and said something about it. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to say that his right hon. Friend will find the money to build better roads, and incidentally provide employment for the jobless in the Highlands using in the main material that is there in plentiful supply. There should be no difficulty, apart from finding the money, in getting on with the job. I hope also that the right hon. Gentleman will do something about providing accommodation for the tourists.

Something has been said in the debate about tourism encouraging the craft industries. The tourist who goes to the Highlands and decides to take home some souvenir buys goods made in the Highlands when he buys tweed, woollens, or knitwear, but if he goes into a shop in Inverness or Dingwall and sees ornaments made of horn, he does not know that it is not sheep country and when he gets home he finds that he has bought something made in Italy. If hon. Members do not believe that, they should buy these goods.

If hon. Members can do anything to stimulate the enterprise of local people in the Highlands to go ahead with local craft industries they will be rendering a service to the Highlands and to Scotland and will be giving satisfaction to tourists who feel cheated when they buy something that looks local to the Highlands and then find that they are of foreign manufacture.

The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) appealed for certain powers to be given to the district councils. There is one very simple thing that might be done. The District Councils Association is the only local government association which is not represented on the Scottish Tourist Board. It has asked to be represented but the Board has said, "No". That is a pity. The Association is still in correspondence with the Board of Trade and the Scottish Tourist Board on this matter. I would ask the Joint Under-Secretary whether he and the Secretary of State could not bring a little pressure to bear upon the Board to admit representation from the District Councils Association, because the district councils can help the Board a great deal in the work which it is undertaking on behalf of touring in Scotland.

To sum up, I want to see winter sports encouraged. I am delighted to see water ski-ing at some of our lochs. I want to see angling encouraged. I want more use to be made of artificial lochs created by the Hydro-Electricity Board. I want to see other lochs and rivers more widely used. I want to see tourists in Scotland able to get day and weekly tickets at reasonable prices in order to participate in sports.

This is a large subject and hon. Members will realise that we shall have to return to it on some other occasion. As others have done, I will resume my seat quickly in order to give the Minister a chance to reply, and I end as I began by congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth and East Perthshire on giving us the opportunity to have this short debate.

3.51 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

In the short time at my disposal I am sure the House will excuse me if I do not answer all the questions that have been asked, although I shall be glad to look at all the points made.

I join with all other hon. Members who have spoken in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) on the use to which he put his good fortune in the Ballot; not only in the choice of an excellent subject, which has, been thoroughly appreciated by all in the House, but also on his excellent speech. Here may I say that all the contributions made will be most useful to the Government and that we shall study them all.

My hon. Friend started in the right way, if I may say so, by a slight pat on the back to the Government. He dealt with scenic beauties; he dealt with trade in Scotland; he dealt with the tourist industry, and he finished on a note of progress. I thought that in every way it was a perfect maiden speech and I congratulate him upon it.

Most of the debate has been on tourism but reference has also been made to industry, and I will reply first to my hon. Friends the Members for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) and Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) about Government assistance to industry in the Highlands. Since the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act of 1958 there has been a marked improvement in industry in the Highlands, and applications for D.A.T.A.C. assistance have been recommended for acceptance involving £250,000 to provide 516 jobs. That is a satisfactory start, and since the beginning of the year there has been the prospect of a plastics industry in Thurso and a glass industry in Wick, both of which are in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland.

There has been a tendency in the past in this country to regard the tourist trade as a sideline, or at best a part-time activity. Last year, however, Scotland received almost as many visitors as her total population, and this was an all-time record. In recent years tourism has become not only an industry in its own right but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) said, one of the largest in the country and the second largest earner of dollars. We want Scotland to develop its industry to the full, but to ensure this the capacity of industry to expand must be maintained, and it must expand in the directions most beneficial to the country.

During the debate emphasis has been placed on the Scottish aspect of tourism. In other words we do not want to bring the tourist to Scotland to see something alien; we want to bring him there to see Scotland. The best way to make Scotland attractive for the tourist is to offer everything best in traditional Scottish hospitality, in sport and recreation, in Scottish fare and also in Scottish products. Incidentally I am told that there is a horn industry in Bute.

I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) that we must develop our natural resources to achieve that result. Many voluntary bodies are combining together to achieve this result. Reference has been made to the National Trust and to local tourist associations. I should like to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness that limited financial assistance is available from the Board, which is prepared to give small grants to help in setting up local information centres. Local authorities may also contribute under the Health Resorts and Watering Places Act, 1936. In some cases, powers are available under the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947. These have been used. Another way of attracting tourists is through the local angling associations. All these bodies are combining together and the Board aims to give a kind of direction to the whole national effort to increase and improve tourism.

Reference has not been made to another matter, but I think that it would be unfortunate in a debate like this if it were not mentioned. Tourism has been greatly assisted by the Films of Scotland Committee. Hon. Members have seen the films of this Committee. I do not think that they are shown on aircraft but they are certainly shown in ships on their way over to this country. In answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin, I should say that a very great deal of publicity is made available. I was sorry to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn that there was difficulty in obtaining information in London. That matter will be looked into because it is most important. Both the Scottish Council and the Scottish Tourist Board do their best to ensure that information is available.

Although the share of the British Travel and Holidays Association grant that is made available to the Scottish Tourist Board appears to be small, nevertheless Scotland benefits and, I think, receives her full share of the benefit of the money that is spent by the British Travel and Holidays Association to attract tourists from abroad. In addition, local authorities have been stepping up their contributions to the Scottish Tourist Board. As a result of discussions between the Secretary of State and the Board, the present campaign in the Highlands was initiated.

We shall have an ample opportunity later to discuss roads, but I ought to say that during this summer it is expected that thirty-two road schemes will be carried out in the Highlands to a total value of £4 million. This is far in excess of anything that has been done before. We all know the deficiencies, but the House can be assured that they are being tackled.

Mr. Rankin

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it will be easier to get through Newtonmore this summer than it was last summer?

Mr. Macpherson

Newtonmore is one of the two places being tackled by the Fraser Committee as special cases. However, the liveliness in Newtonmore is part of the reason why one cannot get through Newtonmore very quickly. In view of my own personal association, I would not deplore the fact that it is not possible to get through there quickly.

While the plan is to develop the Highlands in particular, it is by no means intended that tourist development should be concentrated solely in the Highlands. One must reinforce strength and concentrate on a narrow front to start with if one wants to gain success. It is necessary to start somewhere. I think that a sound start is being made. We hope that it will develop and snowball. As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) said, we shall have a further opportunity of discussing this matter this year. We are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire for having raised it now.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the Government's support for the Scottish Tourist Board's plans for the development of the tourist industry, and calls attention to the opportunities that these are likely to provide for the growth of other industries in the Highlands.