HC Deb 21 November 1973 vol 864 cc1319-20
13. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what assistance he is now prepared to offer for the improvement of the pier and harbour facilities at John o' Groats.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The discussions referred to by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Development in his reply of 2nd May took place, but revised proposals involving a more expensive scheme were recently submitted on behalf of the county council and these are under consideration.—[Vol. 855, c. 1233–34.]

Mr. Maclennan

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the revised proposals carry the backing of the Highlands and Islands Development Board and that the scheme as put forward now would provide for the fishing and the tourist industries? Why are the Government taking so long to push this project forward? Do they not realise that in supporting this scheme for the development of John o' Groats harbour they would be backing a winner?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I refute the suggestion that the Government are taking a long time to reach a conclusion. We received the proposals from the county council only at the end of October, and a meeting is taking place this week with officials of the county council. I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says about the joint nature of these proposals in relation to transport, fishing and tourism. I confirm that the Highlands and Islands Development Board is taking an interest in this matter and might be prepared to lend support.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Under-Secretary aware that I strongly support the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) in his plea on behalf of John o' Groats harbour; that between June and September no fewer than 11,000 people crossed from John o' Groats to Orkney out of this harbour; that a temporary jetty was sunk, I understand, owing to the activities of a darts club; and that there is an urgent need not only because of fishing but because of tourism to replace this with a more substantial structure?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I do not know whether one can play darts at the bottom of the sea at John o' Groats. As regards transport services across the firth, it must be remembered that the Government have already committed more than £1 million towards the provision of proper terminal facilities and that the facilities at John o' Groats, popular as they are, fall into a rather different category.