HC Deb 13 February 1985 vol 73 cc333-4
9. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied with the present administrative and financial arrangements for marketing and for developing tourism in Scotland.

Mr. John MacKay

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend has already made it clear that he will give careful consideration to any recommendations that may in due course be made by the Select Committee for Scottish Affairs.

Mr. Kirkwood

May I refer the Minister, in addition to the obviously important evidence that will come from the Select Committee, to the important report that was published by the Fraser of Allander Institute last November on tourism and public policy in Scotland, which said that there was an urgent need for a clear statement of Government policy on tourism, including a need for an urgent degree of co-ordination of art, heritage and tourism, and an equally urgent need for Government activity in the classification of the marketing and development rules of the Scottish Development Board, the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the Scottish Development Agency?

Mr. MacKay

If the hon. Gentleman talks to the tourist industry in Scotland, I think he will find that not all of it agrees with the Fraser of Allander report that he mentioned. I believe that the tourist industry is vitally important for Scotland, and we are convinced that the roles of the Scottish Tourist Board and of the Highlands and Islands Development Board are vital to the future prosperity of the industry. We shall be looking with interest at the findings of the Select Committee on the subject of the interface between these two bodies.

Mr. Maxton

The Minister says that tourism is so important. Why, then, is he insisting that local authorities cut back dramatically on their leisure expenditure, which includes museums, sports facilities and leisure recreation of all types and the arts, which play a vital part in attracting tourists to Scotland and ensuring that Scottish holiday-makers are properly entertained?

Mr. MacKay

There is another side to the coin of local authority expenditure if expenditure and rates are not kept under control. The tourist industry and especially small hotels, boarding houses and the like are damaged by the increase in rates. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman should be congratulating the Government on the considerable amount of money that we have put into the Scottish Tourist Board and the Highlands and Islands Development Board since the last election, almost doubling what was spent in the last year of the Labour Government.

Mr. Fairbairn

May I remind my hon. Friend that tomorrow is St. Valentine's Day? As his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said, the tourist season will soon start in Scotland. Can the Scottish Development Department erect the signposts in time for the tourist season? If my hon. Friend wants some good advice about how to promote tourism in Scotland, may I suggest that he reads the Scottish Field next month for an excellent article on the subject, which I have written?

Mr. MacKay

We all look forward to the article with bated breath. I am sure that my hon. Friend who has responsibility for home affairs and the environment has heard my hon. and learned Friend's remarks about signposts.

Mr. Craigen

When will the Government wake up to the economic potential of the £1 billion Scottish tourist industry? With regard to the Minister's reference to rates for hotels and boarding houses, has the Scottish Office made any assessment of the impact of revaluation on the tourist industry in Scotland?

Mr. Mackay

We have of course considered the question of revaluation across the board. My right hon. and hon. Friends have both answered questions on this matter. The total rate burden levied by local authorities is important to the tourist industry. While I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of tourism, I think that local authorities have to bear in mind the burden that they put on the local economy.