HL Deb 06 February 1968 vol 288 cc1087-126

4.53 p.m.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether any decisions have been taken following the Cairngorm Report with a view to assisting and encouraging the development of winter sports. The noble Earl said: My Lords, when I put this Question down about three months ago I certainly did not think that this would be such a remarkable and possibly auspicious occasion. Whether, indeed, it will prove as notable an advance in our constitutional methods of reporting Parliament as the case of Stockdale v. Hansard, I beg leave to doubt; but at least I am not sorry that one facet of Scottish affairs should be discussed at this time.

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is unwell, and I hope he will very soon be restored to health. Particularly am I sorry that he is not here to-day because he takes a very real interest in the subject-matter of this Question. But I am very honoured that the Leader of the House should have thought fit to reply to it. It is a subject in which I know he is well interested, as indeed one would expect of the distinguished son of a very famous father. And I know that the noble Lord quite recently organised a Services expedition to Ellesmere Island, where the climatic conditions are even more exacting.

The third reason why this is an interesting day is that it is the opening day of the Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble. We may or may not have reasonable chances of winning medals in bobbing, skating and possibly even ladies' ski-ing; but I think it is right to remember the part which British subjects have played in the evolution of ski-ing as a sport. Notably, of course, the name occurs of Sir Arnold Lunn, who in fact invented the slalom race, which now receives such very wide interest throughout the world.

In the spring of last year there was published a Report on the Cairngorm area. It is an extremely fascinating and interesting Report—probably one of the most thorough reports on any of the rural areas in this country—dealing with the geology, the biology, the meteorology, and indeed to some extent the anthropology. When that Report came out, the Secretary of State made the comment that he commended it for study. I am merely asking the Government: what has been the result of their studies? The picture which it gives, if I may say so, is the picture of probably the biggest open area in the country to-day, probably five times the size of Dartmoor. It has a declining population, and there is no likelihood that agriculture will replace the decline in population which is taking place.

Any development in this area necessarily presents conflicts. These are conflicts between those who want to bring in new ideas and those who want to conserve. I would say that on the whole, though there are many ways in which it can be argued, the Report deals with this matter very fairly. For instance, it says that Braeriach is an area which should be conserved. This Report also suggests a wide variety of activities of a tourist character—it mentions some 15 to 20 of them. What I think stands out is that these activities dovetail together, whether they be in the summer or in the winter; and if any development is to take place it is necessary that both seasons should receive full attention. Indeed, it is right that the winter activities should complement the already existing ones in the summer. The next point is that there is no overall control of the whole of this area—indeed, part of it is outside the Highland Development Board altogether—and, of course, it is a point for consideration whether there should be a degree of co-ordination. I certainly would not suggest that there should be control, but there should be some point at which the varying interests can come together and express their views and, if I may say so, get some encouragement from the Government.

The Report recommends that various steps be taken, and the sum involved in those steps amounts to £35 million. I have very little doubt that the Government will boggle at that figure. All I am hoping is that boggling will not be the only response which we shall get from the Government, and that something will be possible other than saying that it is too big a thing altogether and no action can be taken. The importance of this is that any form of land development takes time, and I am trying to look ahead, perhaps five or ten years, to the sort of thing which might take place.

May I give just one or two reasons why I think this kind of development is important? First of all, the proposals basically deal with outdoor activity, and with the increasing congestion of our large towns this will be ever more important for the young people of this country. There are few things better than exercising one's skill against the natural features of the world or of the country. It is in pitting oneself against the severities and problems which nature provides that one learns self-confidence.

The second reason is that this is a regional development. All Governments are interested in regional development, and this Government have laid great emphasis on the importance which they attach to it; that is to say, that there should be no area in the country which lags well behind the rest in social and economic life, and that where we can prevent any form of stagnation we should do so. But there is a third facet, and that is the part which this development plays in contributing towards the invisible trade of our country. I cannot say that our Government have been notable in emphasising their interest in invisible trade as an element in our economy. It was not mentioned at all in the Prime Minister's speech on the economy of the country a week or so back; and so far as I know it was not mentioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night when he was speaking to the bankers in the City. This is strange; because it has recently been revealed, in an extremely carefully worked-out Report by a Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Thomas Bland, that for 140 years our visible trade has never been in balance, except for two years. Those two years, strangely enough, were during the so-called "wasted years" of Tory Government, between 1956 and 1958. In fact, our balance has always depended on a positive invisible trade. Moreover, our invisible trade to-day is growing much more quickly than our visible trade.

One of the most rapidly growing forms of invisible trade is tourism. During the twelve years up to 1964 tourism, as an element of invisible world trade, has multiplied four times; but this country has not benefited by tourism; indeed, we are in deficit in this aspect of invisible trade. It is therefore, I think, only to be expected that the Committee, which, so far as I know, contained no hoteliers, recommended that the Government should pay more attention to the hotel industry, and all that goes with it, than they do at the present time. It is curious that the economists have not paid more attention to tourism as such. I believe that the first book on tourism was written 25 years ago by Professor Ogilvie who had the Chair of Political Economy at Edinburgh University and subsequently became Director-General of the B.B.C.

How important is this development likely to be? It is not very easy to say. I am told that there are probably about, 200,000 people who put on skis in Great Britain. This figure, of course, is a matter of some guesswork. What is more certain is that a check by the Scottish Tourist Board has shown a development which has doubled in a period of four years. That, progressively, is pretty rapid, and I think it is likely to continue; and I. can give other positive examples of development which are likely to take place. The number of artificial ski slopes existing in the country to-day is already 24, and the number is going up. There are important slopes at Torquay, the Crystal Palace and another in Wales whose name I will not venture to pronounce. The most important is in Edinburgh at Hillend, where there is a slope of 450 yards which can take a 50-gate slalom. Those who can ski on artificial slopes will inevitably at some time want to ski on the snow.

A further point concerns the development in the schools. There is a new interest in schools and in school parties going on mountain expeditions of some character or other. The National Ski Federation of Great Britain, of which I have the honour to be President, called a conference of the directors of education and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who regrets that he is not able to be here, was chairman of the conference. Seventy of the directors of education regarded ski-ing as one of the most worth while activities available to individuals. I have no doubt that as young children find this sport available, more and more will want to take part. I should perhaps, finally, refer to the growing interest in ski-ing which is taking place in the Armed Forces, and particularly in the Army, where there have been great developments since the War.

My Lords, what I am concerned about is whether the Government are looking far enough ahead to see the sort of developments which may well take place. In our lifetime ski-ing as a sport has probably developed more rapidly than almost any other sport that exists to-day. I am told that there are probably more participators in ski-ing than in any other one sport, with the possible exception of bowls. The Scottish Ski Club, it is true, was formed about sixty years ago, but I think it was only in the 'thirties that its numbers became significant. To-day, although we do not know the exact number, something like 200,000 or 300,000 people go abroad every year to take part in ski-ing.

I was very interested to read in the Annual Report of the Highland Development Board of the interest they are taking, particularly in the Cairngorm area. They have already invested some £25,000 in Cairngorm Sports Development Limited, and I believe the chairman of the board is a member of Cairngorm Sports Development Limited. What they say is this: We are anxious to do as much as possible to ensure that progress of such a major development should proceed on a planned basis. I agree entirely with those words, and this is what I have in mind. They go on to say that this is a matter on which "individual initiative alone will not suffice".

This, my Lords, is where I think a measure of encouragement and co-ordination is required of the Government if for no other reason than that so many interests are involved. It is no good the Government saying that they have no responsibility; because S.E.T. is a direct burden on services of this character. So from a purely financial point of view, the Government have a responsibility. I am told that the effect of S.E.T. in the Glencoe area, a very promising development, has been to bring the activities there very nearly to a standstill. This is very regrettable indeed, because it had considerable possibilities.

Much the most important development has been at Aviemore. A great many organisations have played a part there: the Highland Development Board, the Inverness County Council, the Rank Organisation, the Fraser Organisation, the Scottish Ski Federation, Cairngorm Sports Development Limited and many others. This has made a great difference to the area. Tourism has become part and parcel of the whole area and has made the development very important indeed. I am told that some of the smaller hotels have been adversely affected by the larger hotels which are being built. I think it is difficult to keep the size of the hotels in line with the demand, but I have no doubt that demand will build up for the hotel accommodation which is available. I think that the development of a road from Nethy Bridge to Glenmore would do a great deal to bring a greater balance into this area.

The point I would bring to the attention of the noble Lord is this. The Report brought out very clearly that development could take place elsewhere. If it is to take place elsewhere, then we must cast our minds ahead to see what preliminary steps can be taken to enable those developments to take place. I do not pretend that big developments can take place immediately. Of course they cannot. What I say is this. Unless one casts one's mind ahead, no development will take place in ten or twenty years' time. An area reported upon favourably in the Report is Beinn a' Bhuird in the Upper Dee Valley. At present this area is not easy of access. It is spoken of extremely highly, but I have not seen it myself. I would ask the Government whether they are seriously considering the implications of this development. I am confident that in five or ten years' time, Aviemore will be unable to compete with the numbers who will then wish to take part.

We are dealing with what I consider to be an expanding industry. Some countries, when activities of this sort have expanded have given what is called a tax relief for the period. There are certain signs of what I would call shortsighted pinpricks taking place at the present time. I believe this problem can be overcome; but at one point I believe the Forestry Commission tried to charge rents to people ski-ing on top of the Cairngorms. I think that has been done away with: but it is the sort of thing which would stifle development at an early stage. There are other points, such as high rating valuation for ski-lifts; and I believe that a café on top of a hill had an annual rating of £5,000 a year. This sort of thing will check an incipient growth which is of value. There are also high car park charges.

My Lords, a great many recommendations are made in the Report. I do not wish to enlarge on them, but I should like to hear something of the view which the Government take of the Benavoir development and whether it can take place in, say, ten years' time. It will take a considerable time to develop. I am not asking for new roads, but I will ask whether the essential access roads now existing may be brought up to what would be called normal development. I refer, first, to the A.9, which is mentioned in paragraph 715, over the Spittle of Glenshee. This road is essential for development and contact between the Dee and Perth. The other road is the A.90 the Perth-Inverness road, particularly in the area of Drumochter and Pitlochry; and there are other places, like the road from the Sugar Bowl to Coire-Na-Ciste. All this would take time, but I believe it would be well worth while. I want to know whether the Government are prepared to encourage development on these lines in a practical way. As I am not allowed to speak again may I say that I am grateful to any other noble Lords who thought it worth while to show an interest in this subject.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, though it is some time since the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, shoved in the Balliol scrum he is still concerned with the best interests of sport; and so, for that matter, is his family—I mean the Douglas Hamilton family. I thank the noble Earl for having raised this matter to-day, but I am afraid that his advocacy of extra encouragement for tourism, be it in the winter or in the summer, in this 1,500 square miles of the Cairngorm area will be of little avail. For we have a Government which on the one hand sponsors this very professional and glossy Report but, on the other, cripples the potential of the area, and in fact of the whole Highland area, by the imposition of the selective employ- ment tax and by closing railway lines and stations. In the offing is the worst threat of all: the Transport Bill, which, if it becomes law in its present form will prove a real knockout blow for this area of the Cairngorms and for the rest of the Highlands.

It seems to me, my Lords, that politics is not, as is said, the art of the possible, but the art of misrepresentation. How else can destruction be represented as construction by the Government in so many spheres? For example, this Report rightly stresses that without people living and working in the area its full potential will not be achieved. But, if a Report may be said to have its tongue in its cheek, this one has in this regard. It says that there is no potential for agriculture, yet it is still the most important livelihood—so says the Report—with 626 farming units in the area. When we know that we can save far more millions in food imports by expanding agriculture in this country than even by encouraging the tourist trade, the policy of the Government towards our agriculture industry should be a policy of expansion and not of restriction.

I note that no crofter or crofter body is listed in the Report as having been asked for advice. Yet in the Spey Valley alone, which is within the area we are discussing, there are thousands of acres of what was once alluvial pasture land but which is now covered by bog and rushes. These acres were once farmed by splendid independent men and women, who reared healthy and intelligent families. But finally they had to go as the land became more and more waterlogged by the overflowing River Spey. There is no mention in this Report of arterial drainage schemes which might enable new families to come back and farm the reclaimed land, so reversing the depopulation trend that is a feature of the area.

It is suggested that 220,000 acres should be planted as forest, but the Report says that this would encroach on existing sheep areas and suggests restricting forestry to 100,000 acres. What happens in this enormous area at the moment? The Report does not tell us As a Forestry Commissioner for a period of years I would propose that this question be resolved by survey as in the Strathoikell and other surveys in the past. As a lifelong sheep farmer I have a strong objection to land being planted if it is suitable for sheep or agriculture. Up to date, this has caused considerable ill-feeling between farmers and foresters. Forestry should be taken to be, and should be expected to be, the helpmeet of agriculture; not the boss, or even a rival.

If it were possible for your Lordships to wave a magic wand over this area and to determine priorities, I would say, first, let there be extra folk and food produced. By "food" I mean cattle and sheep, and some cereals. Secondly, I would say, let there be trees in suitable places, and shelter belts wherever agriculture needs them. That could be discovered by survey. Thirdly, let there be grouse on sheep areas, for what helps sheep helps grouse—for example, draining and moor burning. Let there be deer only on the tops of the hills, and nowhere in competition with cattle and sheep. Having lost their wintering grounds because of forestry development in the past, deer must now be fed in the winter, if they are to be a sporting or a commercial concern. Agriculture and sheep should not be penalised, as suggested in the Report, to provide new areas for deer.

Finally, my Lords, let there be tourists at low levels in hotels built by private enterprise and not with the taxpayers' money. Let us save the taxpayers' money for reclamation of land to be used to promote a numerous and all-the-year-round-residence contented people. Give this Cairngorm area a human as well as a scenic beauty, and tourism in my opinion, will then be added unto it as an additional dividend.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, we are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Selkirk for raising this question. As he said, it is not entirely a local matter. It is one which has a bearing on the whole development of the Highlands and, in a much wider context, on the whole question of our balance of payments; and my noble friend rightly brought out these points. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, for his observations, and particularly for his comment that grouse and sheep are complementary to each other in the Highland economy. That is something which is sometimes overlooked, or not mentioned, by those who advise the Government.

I shall not deal with that matter, or with forestry, which the noble Lord also mentioned, because my noble friend's Motion refers only to winter sports. As he said, hundreds of thousands of people who go abroad for winter sports could get as much pleasure, and some of them more, if they went to the Scottish Highlands. We do not always get sun in Switzerland and it is not always dull in the Highlands; though it is true that we do get more sun in Switzerland and a little less in the Highlands. But those who are more concerned with the sports than with the sun need not be deterred.

There are two areas in the Cairngorm region where there are winter sports—Glenshee and the Cairngorms. Glenshee has not yet been so much developed, although there is very good ski-ing there. The Report points out that one of the reasons why there is not so much hotel development there is that Glenshee is within easier reach of some of the big cities, like Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, so that people can go there for the day without having to stay overnight. But undoubtedly it is capable of enormous further development if hotels could be built there.

As my noble friend Lord Selkirk has said—and I hope that the Government will take note of it—the main thing is the radical improvement of the road A.93. This is clearly brought out in paragraph 5.88, on page 54 of the Report, which says: It is clear that … the comprehensive improvement of road A.93 … in the section Spittal of Glenshee to the Cairnwell which includes the Devil's Elbow is of paramount importance to ensure that this major access copes adequately with present winter traffic and the considerable increase which seems certain. … Without such effective access from the south, the east side of the Area cannot be fully exploited for ski-ing and winter sports. I confess that I should have some feelings of nostalgia if the Devil's Elbow were to be removed. Probably some of your Lordships have been there. The road at this point goes up round a double bend, at a gradient of something like one in two. The first time I ever went over it I had a companion who was rather fond of telling the driver what to do. I thought I would manage it in second gear, but he said that I must come down to first—and I got so flummoxed that I went into reverse. Fortunately there was nothing behind me, so all was well. But the main thing the Government must do about this area is to give greater priority to the improvement of this road.

As for the other area in the Cairngorms, at Aviemore, there has been tremendous development in which everybody in the area has helped. My noble friend mentioned the companies of the noble Lords, Lord Rank and Lord Fraser of Allander, who have put so many millions of pounds into the new hotel industry. The amount of money which has been put into the hotel development here exceeds anything that has ever been done, or is likely to be done, by any public body. There has been the greatest cooperation from landowners in the district. Naturally, that applies more to summer sports than to winter sports, because they range over a wider area. The local landowners have taken a leading part in the ordered enjoyment of the beautiful scenery in the whole district.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Selkirk that this is an admirable Report. I think it is one of the best public Reports that has ever been written. But there is one point on which I must make a reservation. In paragraph 78.7, on page 77, the Report states: The virtual doubling of the length of the holiday and recreational season through the development of winter sports at the Cairn Gorm has already attracted to Aviemore the biggest investment in rural hotel accommodation in Scotland of the century, but this has now reached a stage at which the limit of this development can be foreseen. I rather think that that last remark may be a little out of date. Perhaps a clue may be found in paragraph 5.14 of the Report, which reads: Both the Highland Tourist (Cairngorm) Development Ltd. project at Aviemore, due to open late in 1966, and the Rank Organisation's Coylumbridge Hotel which was opened in November, 1965.… and so on. From that one must conclude that this Report although it was published in 1967, was written a little after November, 1965—perhaps at the beginning of 1966. If it had been written now, the authors might perhaps not have thought that the development of hotel accommodation for winter sports had reached the stage at which its end can be foreseen.

My Lords, if we succeed, as we hope to do, in attracting many tourists who have been accustomed to going else- where for their winter sports, this will save currency; and if we attract people from abroad to our winter sports in the Cairngorms, that will be a gain of foreign currency. There is still scope for enormous development in this Cairngorm area. There is no doubt that this is one of the best ski-ing areas in Europe. I went there with my family for a few day; last month. I enjoyed it immensely, though I do not myself ski. My family, who do, also enjoyed themselves, though one morning they were caught in a blizzard. Fortunately, they had a Swiss guide, who wisely advised them not to go home by means of the ski-lift. The ski-lift got stuck in the blizzard and its inmates were suspended, in some discomfort and growing hunger, for an hour and a half, whereas those who were wise enough to find their own way down got back an hour sooner in time for an enormous lunch.

The capacity for further development here is, I think, one whose limit cannot be foreseen, and it should be pursued all out, not only by private enterprise but by every public authority. My noble friend said that the expenditure contemplated by this Report, by the Government, would amount to £35 million. Of course, a great part of that would be on roads, and the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, thought it very unlikely that the Government would do anything.

I must apologise to your Lordships, because I think I have mentioned the selective employment tax and the Transport Bill in every speech that I have made this Session. It just happens that I have been given the duty of speaking on subjects where one does not seem able to avoid mentioning these two things, both of which were referred by the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, and by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. I am not going on nagging again about this selective employment tax, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman said, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest impediments to the development of tourism in the Highlands; and my noble friend Lord Selkirk said it has stopped desirable developments in the Glencoe area. That, of course, does not come into the Report we are discussing, but it is, nevertheless, a regrettable thing.

If the Government are determined to pursue their policy by means of taxation, as they seem to be, I should like to make one suggestion of another tax. It might be a good one, and might be substituted for the selective employment tax, which I should like to see abolished. It is on the model of the foreign tax known as the kur-tax. That is not a tax for general revenue purposes, but for a fund more like the old Road Fund, which the late Sir Winston Churchill abolished in 1925. Your Lordships who have stayed in hotels in Switzerland and elsewhere will probably have noticed on the hotel bill that so much is paid as tax. That tax is not an imposition which goes to the general needs of the country in which you are staying, but is a special tax that goes into a special fund for the development of the tourist trade. Out of that tax over the last hundred years, a great deal of the tourist industry in Switzerland and Italy has been built up.

The former Secretary of State for Scotland in the last Government tried to get the Scottish hotel-keepers to agree to a tax of this kind. At one moment we thought they had agreed, but they went back on it afterwards, which I thought was a great pity. If we could have a tax of this kind, which is specifically devoted, not to general revenue purposes, but to the development of the tourist industry, we should have much more public money to spend on these things which are appropriate for the Government to perform in developing our tourist industry, and particularly our winter sports industry, in the Highlands. While agreeing strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, that we must drop the Transport Bill, which I think is a tax on pretty well everything in the Highlands, and the selective employment tax, I think we might substitute this specific tax, the kur-tax, to be paid by tourists as part of their hotel bill, and devote it exclusively to the development of the Highlands tourist industry.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am one who is glad to support the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, in this Motion, which calls on the Government to state what they intend to do with regard to the Cairngorm Report. The noble Earl's great interest in winter sports and in ski-ing is well known, and I am glad to be able to give him all the support I can. One usually hesitates to intervene in a Scottish debate, but this is not quite a Scottish debate, as it affects all those who are interested in winter sports and, in particular, in ski-ing. I suppose we could have debated this in the Sports Council debate to-morrow, but as the Report says that on Scottish skiing they have spent a sum of £3,224, and that their donation to the Scottish Ski-ing Council is £800 out of a total of £112,000 spent on Scottish sport, it is probably rather better for us to debate it to-day.

I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, about this Report. It is one of the most magnificent Reports that I have ever read, and I certainly hope that it will be greatly read. It is beautifully written, well produced, full of facts and a mine of information for those who seek it. If anyone doubts the possibilities of the development of the Cairngorm area, this Report should completely convince him.

As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, this is perhaps fundamentally a problem of approach roads, and the Report suggests, in a long-term scheme or tour of more than £30 million, that something like £14 million shall be spent on roads. These roads, of course, will serve both in summer and in winter. Somebody suggested that one way of raising money for this purpose might be a Scottish national lottery; but whether that would be acceptable I do not know. As the Report indicates, roads are the key to the development of this area, particularly, I should imagine, at this time of the year, in the winter sports time, when snow clearance to assist the coaches and cars that want to approach various winter sports centres must be a considerable problem. I do not know whether the Highlands are at a disadvantage compared to the Swiss centres, but the Swiss have their mountain railways which go up from the main lines whatever the weather, and can always get the tourists to the winter sports resorts.

I hope that we are not going to be too pessimistic in our attitude to this problem. I think that we started Switzerland off on their winter sports; and I am not sure that it was not a Scottish engineer who started the electrification of their railways. It was certainly Arnold Lunn who got their ski-ing industry started; and it was British tourists—the Swiss Government acknowledge this—who built up their lower resorts, which compare with the Cairngorms, and who use the lower resorts more than the higher resorts. The whole of their revenue from tourism is based on the greater amount coming from the lower resorts, started by tourists from this country, and ski-ing in the old days.

I do not think it is entirely the snow in Switzerland which is too competitive for Scottish ski-ing. There is not a great deal of difference between the two. Nor do I think there is a great deal of difference in the weather. You can go to Switzerland in January and in February and not see the sun, although you can be sure of it at Easter. But you can go to the Highlands and probably get sun in December. I notice in the various pamphlets dealing with ski-ing in Scotland that they emphasise that the sunshine they get there compares well with the sunshine they get elsewhere in Scotland. I think the reason why the Swiss have developed ski-ing is that they treat the whole thing as a major export earner; and we have helped them to do it. These resorts in the Cairngorms have all the facilities: they have lifts, hotels, ski-tows, 30-metre jumps. They have almost everything—huts, restaurants, ski-huts—except the right number or adequate number of approach roads to the resorts. And I would emphasise that it is on these approach roads that the future will depend in the next year or so, because the schemes that have been outlined here are very much long-term schemes.

Again, the competitors, such as Austria and Switzerland, have their Kuverien sports tax, which helps them maintain the roads in the ski villages and so on; but basic roads are the capital requirements at the start. If the various bodies in their co-ordinated report could tackle these approach roads, I think it would be the best thing they could do at the present time. Perhaps B.E.A. could survey to see whether they could put in some landing strips there, to encourage tourist flights from London. It takes about four hours, I think, from Edinburgh and Glasgow to the ski resorts in the Cairngorms. If one could get in a 'plane at Heathrow and get out within a few miles of one of those resorts, I think it would certainly attract more skiers and more tourists.

The Government have a fine record in National Parks. The late Mr. Hugh Dalton played a great part in this, and over the years this has been their policy, and I certainly hope that in this regard they will look favourably towards the Cotswolds. We have plenty of snow at the present time; we should almost qualify as a ski resort. The noble Lord suggested that perhaps we are greatly indebted to the Army for using these areas for training courses. I think industry could use them also for Outward Bound and sandwich courses more than they do, and perhaps the industrialists and industrial councils would consider this. I know there was a newspaper report that the Parliamentary Ski Club were disappointed because they could not fully reciprocate the hospitality of their Continental colleagues on their annual competition this year at Davos. There was an avalanche at Davos. But why not the Cairngorms? Why should not the Parliamentary Ski Club next year invite their Continental colleagues, their opposite numbers, to come and visit the Cairngorms?

I believe we are fortunate in that we have Ministers in the Treasury who are winter sports enthusiasts, if not ski-ing enthusiasts, and maybe they will look at this Report in a favourable light. I am sure that in my noble friend the Leader of the House we could find nobody more sympathetic, and no one who understands this matter better than he does; and I certainly look forward very much to hearing what he is going to say on behalf of the Government and what they are prepared to do to implement this very fine Report, even though it may be a long-term policy.

Our young skiers to-day are doing extraordinarily well on the Continent. They cannot get the training—even the young Army skiers cannot; but they could certainly get preliminary training in the Cairngorms over here. They are doing extraordinarily well. Of course, they find it difficult to compete with some of the Continental nations. We cannot hope to do anything such as has been done at Grenoble at the preseent time, with all the money that has been spent there. But I say that this Report is a good Report. It is well worth looking at, and it is well worth the Government's taking a bold step forward in this matter. After all, we all live in overcrowded compounds of civilisation to-day, and if we do not preserve these great beauty spots and tourist centres and recreation and health resorts, it will be a very poor look out for us. I hope that all those who back sport in Britain will back ski-ing in the Cairngorms.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords in this House who come from North of the Border must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye, for his complimentary remarks about the developments in the Cairngorm area, and especially for his praise of the Cairngorm Report which we are discussing. I think we can all rather feel that our backs are being nicely stroked, because if there is any development that has taken place in Scotland in recent years that is purely and absolutely Scottish, it is this. It has been done entirely from the resources of Scotland itself.

To look back a bit, it was known as a tourist centre for the upper classes a long time ago, but the developments really started after the last war, and I think it is only right that we should remember at this time that the man who really got going the Glenmore development was the brother of the noble Earl who has raised this Question today. It was Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton, who scrounged this and that from the Royal Air Force and got going in 1946 at Glenmore a winter course, or courses. It was very largely students—young persons but very largely students—who went on those early courses. For instance, from Edinburgh University every year a detachment, numbering between thirty and fifty, has gone up there for a week or a fortnight at Christmas time. That was started and comes straight from the development by the late Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton.

Developing from that initiative came, fairly quickly, the Council of Physical Recreation, and it was strongly supported by the Scottish Education Department. Located in the original Glenmore Lodge, it then moved to its present somewhat more palatial installation. But I think that, above all, the name that will be associated with those developments around Aviemore is, as the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, the name of Lord Fraser of Allander. He served in your Lordships' House for only a short time, and seldom spoke, but he was a man given to deeds rather than to words. Many years ago, in the early 'fifties, he was seized with the idea of developing the Spey Valley, and he had the brilliant idea that the initial way to develop the Spey Valley for the tourist trade was to give it a "face lift". He made the initial step of providing paint at very cheap rates for the people who had hotels and lodging houses on the road, and the whole of the Spey Valley came away with a 'face lift" and was in that way marked out above all the other tourist centres in Scotland. Those developments, and others which went with them, such as somewhat better sewerage, water facilities, and so on, were largely paid for out of a fund of £100,000, and so far as we can make out the greater part of that fund must have come from Lord Fraser's private purse. It got things going in the 'fifties and of course the more recent developments at Aviemore. Literally millions of pounds have been put into the Aviemore centre, and its curling, skating rinks and swimming pools, as well as hotels, chalets and ski runs, are quite a remarkable development for this country.

As some noble Lords have said, one must not forget the work of the landowners, but as regards the Aviemore development one must remember that we were extremely fortunate in that Colonel Ian Grant of Rothiemurchus owned the really tricky, essential ground and made it possible. One would wish that some other landowners, not all of them Scotsmen, had been as co-operative as Colonel Ian Grant of Rothiemurchus.

We must also recognise that these developments owe a great deal to the Inverness County Council under their convener, Sir Francis Walker. If it had not been for the county council the road from Glenmore to the present ski-lift would not have been built. It took a great deal of drive and energy to get that going, and without that essential link the ski-lifts would not have developed as they have. The actual ski-lifts, as well as the ski-slopes, have all been developed by native genius. There was a gift of £20,000 by an Edinburgh man to the initial ski-lift at the White Lady Coire. That was further developed by private donations, several of over £1,000 each. Similarly, the artificial ski-slope at Edinburgh, about which the noble Lord spoke, was activated by a private gift; and the other slopes in Scotland are organised in much the same way.

My Lords, what I should like to point out, with my tongue in my cheek, is that all these developments—which are remarkable developments for the United Kingdom—have been achieved without the help of a Parliament in Edinburgh. If there had been a Parliament in Edinburgh at this time, think of the praise and credit it would have taken for the production of this Report.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord whether a Parliament in Edinburgh would not have built sooner the access roads to this area, not for tourism but for the people resident there the whole year round.


My Lords, if I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, there was no point in building the road until one knew one had the money to build the ski-lift. The ski-lift was built and the road followed immediately, no time being lost by the Inverness County Council in the building of that road. I can remember the decisions being taken in 1955 and 1956.

There are one or two other points in the Report which are of interest, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I take up some more of your time. I do not want to cross swords too frequently with the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, but on his point in regard to agriculture I must say that as a farmer I honestly cannot see major developments in agriculture taking place in the Cairngorm area. There is some extraordinarily good farming going on in that area already, and also in the lower Speyside down in the Cromdale area where some of the best herds of Aberdeen Angus are being bred on quite small farms. That land is ideally suited for the maintenance of these small herds of some of the best cattle in the whole wide world.

The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, referred to this being a remarkable day—the first day of the Olympic Winter Sports. But I would tell your Lordships that this is an important day because it is the day of the Perth sales of Aberdeen Angus That is just as important as the first day of the Olympic Winter Sports. While one hopes that nothing will be done to harm the important and lucrative establishment of cattle breeding in those parts on the fringes of the Cairngorm area, I do not think we can look to agriculture as the ultimate development of it.

There is one point in the Cairngorm Report to which I think it is only right to draw your Lordships' particular attention: that is, in connection with the value of the distilleries upon the fringe of the area. Those distilleries, although they are small in the numbers they employ, give continuity to the small villages which are near them and maintain a community which might otherwise tend to fall away. So there are other advantages than merely the refreshment that the whisky provides.

Roads are very important. I should like to submit to Her Majesty's Government that they should consider the Glen Feschie road, even though the cost is £2 million. It would cut right across the Cairngorm area, but I think we have to accept that, in view of its tremendous value in getting the timber from the Aberdeenshire area right down to the pulp mill at Fort William. It would also open up the Cairngorms and probably enable one to develop a new set of skislopes. However, I am rather apprehensive of over-developing the roads. I would regret very much—and I know the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl would regret it also—a road up Glen Tilt. I think Glen Tilt, which is an historic place, should be kept for walkers. As the noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye, has said, there should be more access roads, and I would press immediately for a road from the existing Glenmore road to go off from White Lady to Coire na Ciste. If we get that, then we shall get a whole range of ski-slopes just as we have now in the White Lady. Otherwise, I think we must make people walk, especially in the summer time, to get the full enjoyment of the Cairngorms. That emphasises the importance of shelter bothies. I have personally been concerned with the construction of one of the shelter bothies up there, and I know it has been of considerable use and value and has saved lives. There are three or four more shelter bothies which should be located in the Cairngorm area, simple things and indestructible things, but a place where shelter can be obtained from the storm.

Likewise there are the youth hostels; and here I would like to say how much we owe to the help of Government in financing the youth hostels, usually giving about two-thirds of the construction costs. This was the case with the new youth hostel built at Aviemore. I think that this help could be expanded, and I wonder whether the Government could give a maintenance grant to the youth hostels in some of these recreational areas. They are costly to maintain, because youth can use them in numbers only at the week-ends, when they are fully booked up. Anyone who has tried to run a hotel and can fill it only at week-ends knows that it is necessary to charge very high prices to make it pay, and if that were done in the case of youth hostels it would negative their value. Similarly, the camping and caravan sites, as well as car parking facilities, should be increased.

It is more than half a century since I first ventured on these paths and these hills, and I did it, as the son of a professor from a university, by bicycle and wagonette. I could do it because my father was a professional man, but no other boys in Glasgow, other than those of our class, could do it in those days. All this has now changed: young people are able to get up to the Cairngorms for the week-end. They are encouraged by grants from local authorities to go up there. The Glasgow education authority has for many years been stimulating the youth to go to the Glenmore Lodge Centre. As the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said, it develops the self-confidence of these young persons, and I think this is of tremendous importance. I am looking forward very much to hearing the Leader of the House reply, for not only has he in his own right so much personal experience along these lines but we know that he has had a close association with Scotland.

6.4 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but having listened to what has been said, and in particular to the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Granville, from the Government Back Benches, I felt it only right and proper that somebody South of the Border should make a short intervention from the Opposition Back Benches. I am privileged to be President of the Ski Club of Great Britain, which quite recently fathered the Ski Federation, of which my noble friend Lord Selkirk is President. I believe that the work, under his leadership, which that Federation has done in promoting ski-ing throughout the United Kingdom has been quite splendid. The work of his Federation here in the United Kingdom is complemented and supplemented by that of the Ski Club, which in particular renders great service to ski-ers from the British Isles when they go ski-ing in the Alps.

My noble friend in initiating this debate described how ski-ing was probably the most widespread sport in the world today, with the possible exception of bowls. I think there is one other sport which is more widespread, and that is swimming. Both sports have this common factor; that you can swim and you can ski from very young to very old; and, what is more, all members of the family can enjoy the sport of swimming and ski-ing together at the same time. And this is something which is well worthy of greater encouragement. I understand that Scotland is one of the few places in the world where you can ski in the morning and bathe in the sea in the afternoon. It struck me as being a little chilly, but I spoke to somebody who did it, and he said that the Gulf Stream impinges itself on the western coast of Scotland and that the water is not particularly cold. A couple of years ago I was ski-ing at Auron, in the Alpes Maritimes, in the morning, and I bathed in the Mediterranean in the afternoon. That was at the beginning of April, and I certainly found it pretty chilly. I do not know how they find it in Scotland.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, spoke about the weather and the sun in Switzerland. Anybody who has been ski-ing there in recent weeks has not had just the sun: it has been snow and blizzard all the time. I think that anything that can be done to make it clear that the sun does appear in Scotland, particularly at the time of the year, in March and April, when it is possible to get some wonderful ski-ing there, is to be welcomed. The noble Lord, Lord Granville, talked about approach roads. I would remind your Lordships that one thing which helped Austria after the war to get on her feet was the giving of Marshall Aid, and the fact that it was spent on approach roads for ski-ing. Those approach roads and facilities going up the hills helped Austria more than anything else to get on her feet.

I should therefore like to give such support as I am able to the plea which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has made for help in developing this area in Scotland. It is not just for Scottish interests or local interests. We have to remember that there is a very large population in the North of England that finds it quite a long distance, and expensive, to go to the Alps. That population can quite easily go across, the Border into Scotland, and they are doing so more and more at the present time. So I say that anything that can be done to further this activity in Scotland will certainly be greatly appreciated by people in England as well.

The noble Earl made it clear that expenditure on artificial ski slopes meant that more and more people were becoming interested in this sport. I believe that such events as the Olympic Games, seen on television, do fire the imagination of young people and make them want to go ski-ing; and that surely is something that we want to see happen. Not only is it useful to have their imagination fired, but there must be also the conveniences and opportunities to carry out this sporting activity.

The noble Lord, Lord Granville, mentioned the Parliamentary race. I was there this year, but unfortunately could not race because I had pulled a muscle a few days before high up in the mountain during a blizzard. But his suggestion has been considered, and might well be followed up. I see no reason at all why our most enjoyable annual races with the Swiss Parliament should not take place in Scotland. It would be a new place for two of their members recently elected, who are international ski-ers. I do not think they have raced in Scotland, and it would be a good education for them to try that as well as the Alpine resorts. This has been an extremely interesting debate, and, if I may say so, a very useful forerunner to our debate to-morrow, which is a wide debate. It is only right and proper that at this time of the year this particular sport, which is being encouraged and developed in Scotland, should have some time made available in your Lordships' House for discussion and consideration.

May I also support what the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, said about Lord Malcolm Douglas Hamilton. I remember again and again in the Lobby in another place, twenty years ago now, talking with Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton about his plans for developing this part of the world. It is a wonderful thing to see that development now taking place. It cannot be other than for the benefit of people, not only in Scotland but in our great industrial areas, to get away from the factory or the office, not just in summer but in the middle of winter also, to enjoy themselves on the snow in this part of Scotland. I hope that, however stringent the financial conditions may be, we may find it possible to give such help as is available to encourage this and other sports, and to speed up development in that area.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot claim to be a Scot, but I do claim to be an enthusiastic skier, and I should like warmly to support the noble Lord who has just sat down. I am glad that the Ski Club of Great Britain should be supporting the development of ski-ing in Great Britain, and I should like to draw attention to the fact that whereas; the richer members of our community, even now with their £50 allowance, can fairly easily go to Switzerland, Austria, Italy and other places, there are a great many people who are rapidly taking to ski-ing but who need facilities much nearer home. Having lived and served in countries where it is possible to ski every weekend, I should like to say what a great advantage it has, as compared with the frantic fortnight which most of the working community have to undertake.

It is some years since I actually skied in the Cairngorms, and I admit that last week I was ski-ing in Italy. But this is a fine area in the Cairngorms and it deserves to be rapidly developed. I should like to support what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and by others in this debate. It seems to me that it is for the public authorities and the Government to provide the necessary infrastructure in the form of roads and communications, without which the travellers just cannot get to these areas and without which the ski-tows and other facilities cannot be usefully used. When that is done it would be most desirable that some encouragement should be given to private enterprise.

I am sorry to appear less enthusiatic than I ought to be about Scotland, but one of the difficulties in the Cairngorms is the high and rather cold wind which often afflicts the area. It is necessary, I think, to recognise that the ski facilities ought to be such that they provide some protection against these winds. I should like to draw attention to the system which exists in North-West Italy, where they use chair-lifts, each chair of which is protected by a sort of eggshell. You get into the eggshell and are pushed on to the tow line, and you get out at the top with your feet relatively warm, which is certainly good for one's morale in going down the piste. Any emphasis should be laid on the chair-lift rather than the ski-tow. It would be useful for tourism in summer, because it is equally applicable at all seasons. So I would suggest that some consideration should be given to what is done abroad by those who are seriously studying this matter.

The second effect of the high wind in Scotland is that it tends to spoil the snow. It so happens that last week I was ski-ing in an area of Italy where the winds are very high, and it was interesting to see how the Italians have settled the matter. They have most ingeniously invented a sort of ski-"cat", two of which are coupled together and are run up and down the slopes which have to be skied on, so that the wind crust and, initially, the sun crust is beaten flat and the snow is consolidated, and is neither spoiled nor blown away. This, I believe, in the Cairgorms would provide for a high standard of ski-ing. I am quite sure that this is an area which ought to be developed, both for the social effects and for the economic advantage to our balance of payments, in being able to offer facilities for our people at home.

There is one other interesting point in this Report about ski-ing, and that is the attention it draws to the possibility of developing ski-ing which is relatively flat and not necessarily much downhill, a system which is greatly favoured in Scandinavia. It is necessary to have light skis, and not those you use for downhill ski-ing in Switzerland. It can be extremely pleasurable. I should like to say that whereas I have satisfied myself that Scotland is eminently suitable for this, it is necessary to have the trails marked. Somebody has to put in a stake every 25 or 30 yards, otherwise, as I can personally certify, it is quite easy to get lost at the top of the Cairngorms and difficult to find the right way down.

I should like to draw attention to one other point. We have the most difficult licensing laws in this country, so far as the sporting community is concerned. It is extremely comforting when you go about the country that you should be able to stop at a small café and, if you do not want to have coffee or tea, to be able to get an alcoholic drink. There is a certain rigidity about our laws which seems to me to make it difficult to offer facilities in Scotland such as are currently offered to anybody going to any part of the Alps. I hope that one day we shall modify our system slightly so that we shall adopt a less spoilsport attitude. I say this with some hesitation, because I know that the abstainers in Scotland are remarkably strong and often resentful of how other people want to behave. I should like warmly to support the noble Earl who put down this Unstarred Question, and to express the hope that the Government will find the means of supporting this development, which I am sure is worthy of their encouragement.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, as the only noble Lord here who lives in the area covered by this Report, I hope it will not be taken amiss if I say just a few words. I promise that I shall say nothing about the precise area where I live, in case I may be thought to show bias. I think the Aviemore centre is a wonderful development. Many of my friends who have been up there for their holidays say that it is the best family holiday you can have. You can forget your children, as there are usually 30 or 40 other children there, and they all play quite happily together, leaving mother and father time to go ski-ing or do whatever they want to do. The reason it is so good is because it has indoor facilities. This is what I think all the other Scottish developments lack. I know it would not be so easy in Glenshee, because there is no village immediately available, or in Glencairn. But I am convinced that Glenshee will never be as popular as Aviemore so long as it does not have the same indoor facilities.

The only snag of Aviemore is the fact that the chair-lift is often affected by the wind. I do not know if it is possible to do anything about this; I gather it is a technical question. But I was wondering whether the Government might not sponsor a little research into whether the chair-lift could be re-aligned, so that it would be affected by the wind on fewer days during the course of the year. It is very frustrating if you drive the whole way there only to discover that the main chair-lift is not working because a wind which you thought was negligible when you left home, which in my case is about forty miles from Aviemore, is quite strong when you get up there.

My noble friend Lord Dundee was a little unfair to the hoteliers about the kur-tax. I would support any taxes which got rid of S.E.T., and to that extent I would support everything both he and the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, said about S.E.T. and the Transport Bill. The reason why the kur-tax was rejected, I regret to say, was the fact that the Scottish Tourist Board, of which I had the honour to be a member at the time, would not approve of it. I said then, and I still believe, that this was a wrong decision and that we should have recommended it, and it was a great pity that we did not. But there was a strong feeling among the commercial hoteliers, particularly in the industrial towns, that they would pay money and not get anything back in return, but I am sure that the kur-tax would be a great help and would enable us to provide facilities in Scotland which are much needed and which at the moment are lacking.

I should like to say a word or two about roads, since I probably use these roads more often than any other Member of your Lordships' House. I disagree with my noble friend Lord Balerno about the Glen Feshie road. It is essentially a place which should be left to the rambler. We must leave some parts of the world to ramblers, and I believe that this is one of the few entirely unspoilt walks left, though I cannot say that I have walked it myself. Ramblers feel very strongly about this, and they would not welcome a road through Glen Feshie. It may be that we should have to build an access road to be able to make available more of the very good snow which lies to the North-East of Glen Feshie.

I consider it essential that the A.9 from Pitlochry to Perth and the A.93 should be improved so that skiers could more easily get to the ski-slopes. It is a great pity that this was not done years ago. The A.93 is a disgrace for a main trunk road. But even more important, and even less expensive, is that, what pass for roads at the moment should be kept open. Last Sunday there were sponsored ski races at Glenshee which were of national importance and which could not take place because no one had bothered to put a snow plough on the road as it was Sunday. Sunday is without doubt the most popular ski-ing day in Scotland; and although one may feel that the Sabbath should not be desecrated in this way, I am afraid it has come and there is nothing we can do about it. Efforts should be made to keep the A.93, the Perth-Braemar road, open even on a Sunday. I might say that the A.9 is usually swept even on a Sunday, although last Sunday it did not appear to have been done, but it was still passable. With those few words, I would support almost everything which was said by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and my noble friend Lord Dundee. I hope that this debate has given the Government some food for thought.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, I very much regret that, in the absence or my noble friend Lord Hughes, I again have to take the part of a Minister for Scottish Affairs in your Lordships' House. I must say that Lord Hughes's disappointment is very much my gain. I think that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, can be well pleased with the results of his initiative in this matter. It is only three weeks ago—and I did not know that I was going to take part in this debate—that I was reconnoitring a ski-slope at the end of his garden. It is actually part of the Broad-stone Golf Course, where I thought there was a promising nursery slope if ever we got any snow in Dorset—maybe we have got it there now.

This is a really exciting subject, and all I have listened to in this debate has made me more and more interested and more anxious to visit the Cairngorms myself and, I hope, perhaps to ski there. I would echo the tributes which have been paid. These tributes include the noble Earl himself, but I am sure that he was moved to hear the tribute to his brother, Malcolm. I first climbed Lochnagar I think in the company of Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton. We were both staying up at King's Camp at that time, over thirty years ago. There are a number of names of people whom we ought to recognise, some of whom have been mentioned, but I am sure your Lordships would wish to express your pleasure that Mr. Boyd Anderson got an M.B.E. in the Honours List this year. He is well known as a benefactor of Scottish skiing in general. One must give credit to the fidelity of the Scottish Ski Club, that they have gone on all these years making very little progress, suddenly to find the promised land blossoming out in front of them sixty years after they were founded.

The debates which we have been having recently on Unstarred Questions tend to get wider and wider, but generally to-day we have kept pretty well on the subject. I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, in what he said—and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, recognises that Lord Bannerman is competing very hard with Scottish Nationalists—but I thought he was a little unfair.

It is easy to be rude about all Governments. Here is an initiative which the Government and the previous Government have encouraged. It may be that we have not done as much as we should like to do. No Government ever does. But I think that the noble Lord was ungracious about the Report itself. I strongly agree with my noble friend Lord Granville and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on the fact that this is an outstanding Report. It is exciting to read, the style is excellent, and I think that congratulations are due to Mr. Evans. It is interesting to find a group mainly of planning officials producing such an excellent, well-balanced Report, not disdaining to quote writers like Mr. Murray, and at the same time being very hard and factual. I think that many congratulations are due to them. It provides a most valuable blueprint, and one which has taken a number of people by surprise. I do not think they had expected anything quite as impressive to come out of this inquiry, or that it would give such a stimulus to and a focus upon activities in this area.

I have a few general remarks to make. I do not propose to follow noble Lords who have talked about S.E.T. and the Transport Bill. I am not surprised they said what they did. It may be they have something to say which is relevant to this subject, but I do not propose to delay the discussion in order to give answers which the Government have given on other occasions and which, I fully acknowledge, do not satisfy noble Lords opposite. It is worth noting that in the last two years upwards of 500 new jobs have been created in the Aviemore area as a direct result of the new developments there. This strikes me as a very remarkable achievement, which has been brought about by a great deal of individual initiative, courageous private enterprise, good support from local authorities and, I believe, very real encouragement from St. Andrew's House as well.

I shall not quote what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State had to say in the introduction. Clearly, no Government can go right overboard on a Report of this kind, especially when so much of the responsibility for action does not lie directly on Government. But I shall come on to the very important point which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, made with regard to coordination. The Secretary of State made it clear in his foreword that any expansion of facilities cannot take place without expenditure, inevitably over a period, both of money and of effort by public bodies, voluntary associations and private enterprise.

This is very much a field of joint endeavour in which one would expect to see a great deal of the initiative being taken locally, as has been so strikingly done by those who built up the Aviemore centre. It is truly one of the most exciting tourist developments in recent years, not just in Scotland, but in Great Britain as a whole. The value of the Cairngorm Report is that it produces an authoritative background against which we can see the development of the area, whether by those in St. Andrew's House, the Highlands and Islands Development Board, the local authorities, the Scottish Tourist Board or the Youth Hostels Association. There are so many.

Incidentally, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, who referred to the Youth Hostels Association. Here I have to be a little careful, because I am a Vice-President of that body. But I have nothing to do with the fact that a grant of up to £5,000 is allowed annually by the Scottish Education Department to the Scottish Youth Hostels Association towards the cost of hostel acquisitions and improvements, such as are now proposed for the Aviemore hostel. Clearly, none of my colleagues in the Government is going to be very pleased if I start making any promises of increased aid, and since my prejudice in favour of this admirable organisation is so strong I shall not go any further. But here again there are indications of a particular improvement which they are making in this area.

I hope also that, in addition to St. Andrew's House, the noble Lord, Lord Granville, and his other colleagues who are Parliamentary ski-ers will read the suggestions which have been made about a meet of the Parliamentary Ski-ing Association. I am sure that with two such powerful characters as the President of the British Ski Club, himself a former Member of another place (who I remember used to ski above Kendal: I think he had a tractor which he got up to the top of the hill, and used it as an improvised ski-tow), and the President of the National Federation, some stimulus can be produced.

I have no doubt that the Report will be carefully studied by the Countryside Commission for Scotland. As your Lordships know, this is to be set up under the provisions of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967, which we dealt with in the last Session. I think we need to bear in mind the really important role that is expected of this Commission, both in stimulating the provision and development of recreational facilities, and in conserving natural beauty and amenity. Of course, this also means conserving areas mentioned by the Nature Conservancy, such as Braeriach and places like that. The Cairngorms area is clearly one where we may expect to see them take an active interest, and where they should be able to use their considerable powers to initiate and co-ordinate future plans and development. I believe, and so I am advised, that this is really going to provide the essential machinery for co-ordination.

When we look at all this multiplicity of bodies, I think we begin to wonder how they manage not to overlap with one another. But this is the sort of balanced piece of machinery which is essential and which will help to provide that particular additional emphasis of Government in the right sort of way. Whatever happens, this must be a partnership; nobody wants the Government to take over.


My Lords, I think we must give great credit to the Scottish Development Department for the fact that there has been so much co-ordination and so little friction in the various developments in the Aviernore area.


My Lords, I entirely agree. I very much welcome the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and I am sure that the Scottish Development Department, who sometimes labour under criticism that they never do anything for Scotland, really deserve the credit which the noble Lord has given to them.

May I turn again now to the Aviemore centre? It is worth noting that, in addition to attracting very large numbers of visitors, it won the British Travel Association's "Come to Britain" trophy last year, for the best new tourist service or amenity in Britain. It has certainly given a really new and exciting look to Scottish tourism. The interesting thing is that the fears of established hoteliers and others in the area that it would reduce their trade have not, so I am advised, proved to be well-founded. Indeed, the reverse is reported to be true. Aviemore seems to flourish despite the S.E.T., even if the S.E.T. may be alleged to be a serious marginal factor in relation to Glencoe. But I am sure that there are other areas of Scotland where one would like to see the development of a Mark 2 Aviemore development, because there is that extraordinary range of beauty in Scotland which, whenever I go there, I wish so many more people could see, though not so many as to ruin it for the few who do go.

That is why I am interested in the point made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl. The question of roads is a delicate one. I know of areas in the West of Scotland, East of Loch Maree, where it is possible to walk for miles and miles—indeed that is the only way of getting about. This is where careful thinking and planning will provide the right sort of balance. On the whole, I should have thought there was much to be said for the Glen Feschie road, but I am afraid that there is not so much of encouragement that I can say to your Lordships at the moment. It will certainly be a very expensive road. The Highlands and Islands Development Board have been asked for their views, but I believe the present thinking of the Secretary of State is that this road would not have very high priority in the Scottish road programme as a whole. But we will listen, and my right honourable friend will listen, to the advice given to him by the Highlands Transport Board, and will take note of the particular point they made, that no further new roads should be built in the Highlands and Islands until existing main roads there have been improved to modern standards. That is a point which a number of noble Lords have mentioned.

I do not know how far we shall be able to improve the chair-lift in high winds, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Athol] wanted. I am sorry to switch so quickly from roads to the chair-lift, but I know the noble Duke referred to that. The Scottish Tourist Board have been sponsoring studies to see how the difficulties might be overcome. It may be that the egg of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, will make it more comfortable, but, as he said, this is a windy part of the world. Curiously enough, I am told that the Australian Alps, which is one of the biggest snowfields in the world—and this is surprising to those of us who do not know Australia—suffers from the same sort of rather violent weather and wind that, on occasions, occur in the Cairngorm area. But this is a technical problem, and I cannot give any indication whether anyone will succeed in solving it quickly.

The centre at Aviemore provides a very wide range of recreations. I will not detail what they are, because I am sure your Lordships know; but it is interesting that the extra facilities that they have provided, which have not been solely facilities related directly to enjoying the neighbourhood—whether it is warm swimming pools or bowling alleys—have been very much used. One of the main factors contributing to the viability of the Aviemore Centre is the very long holiday season which it is possible to exploit in the Spey Valley, where there are so many charms in different seasons of the year; and, of course, winter sports have provided the sort of complementary activity which will in due course bring it, I hope, well beyond the area of marginal economy.

The Cairngorm Sports Development Limited, formed in March, 1966, as an operating company by the Cairngorm Winter Sports Development Board, have been doing a very good job effecting a steady improvement in the chair-lift, the ski-tow and the restaurant facilities which they offer on Cairngorm; and they have been assisted here by the Highlands and Islands Development Board. They now have a two-stage chair-lift and five tows on the mountain, and just before Christmas there was an extension to the White Lady Shieling at the intermediate stage of the chair-lift. I am also told that at the moment they are actively considering further developments, including what I see is called a Hilltop Restaurant. I imagine that this is the sort of restaurant in which, in Switzerland, where there are no licensing laws, you buy your Gliihwein—when I say, "buy your Glühwein", I mean whenever you want to buy it—and this seems to me to be a very desirable thing. I think the idea of a mountain-top restaurant where you take your skis off and have your cup of coffee and your Glühwein is one of the most attractive aspects, provided the sun is there, in winter sports. Again, all these proposals are in line with the Cairngorm Report.

Now I should like to turn again to this problem of roads. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, as did the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, raised the question of road improvements, and I find that my noble friend Lord Hughes dealt with it in the debate in your Lordships' House on April 5. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, I think it was, then spoke about the road situation in the Cairngorm area, and made the very fair point that it is no use having snow on the ski-slopes if people cannot get there. My noble friend gave a very full statement at the time, and I do not want to go over all the details again, but I would just say that since that debate the planned improvements over the whole length of the road from Coylumbridge to Coire Cas have been completed at a total cost of nearly a quarter of a million pounds, and constructional work will soon be started on a £332,000 scheme for the improvement of the stretch from Aviemore to Coylumbridge which will include a much improved junction with the A.9. These are formidable schemes by any standard, and are impressive proof of the support which the Inverness County Council and the Government are giving to the recreational needs of the area.

On the Perth-Pitlochry section of the A.9 further South, various improvements are already in hand or are being planned, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is considering what general improvement can be included in the road programme for the 1970's. On the A.93, the Perth County Council have plans for widening and realigning the road between the Devil's Elbow and the county boundary. Whether this will be enough to obviate any disasters produced by the noble Earl going into reverse at a crucial moment I cannot say, but at least the risks will be less.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is true that the plans of the Perth County Council for the A.93 road have actually been put on paper?


My Lords, I will read this again very carefully. I was in the middle of it when I was diverted by my recollection of the noble Earl's agonising situation on an earlier occasion. The Perth County Council have plans for widening and realigning the road between the Devil's Elbow and the county boundary with Aberdeenshire, but the question of timing must of course depend partly on the overall funds available to grant-aid the Scottish principal road improvement programme during the next few years—and this, I would submit, is in turn bound up with the restraints imposed by the national economic situation—and partly on the county council's own view on priorities. So I am not sure whether in saying that they have plans it means that there are plans available to be seen, but it may be that I shall be able to let the noble Earl know this.

Looking at the wider scene, your Lordships will appreciate that all the local planning authorities in the area covered by the Cairngorm Report were represented on the Technical Group, and this can be expected to bear fruit in their development plans. Indeed, almost simultaneously with the publication of the Report, Inverness County Council submitted an amendment to their development plan for the area which makes it quite clear that the county council accept the main lines of the Report and are willing to play a full part in implementing it. More recently, too, in December, Banff County Council submitted a development plan which designates the whole of the Cairngorm area falling within their district as being an area of great landscape value. They have also indicated that it is their policy to encourage the development of tourism as an integral part of the county's economic structure, and that as one means of doing so they intend in the main to adopt the recommendations in the Report. And, of course, the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 will considerably improve their ability co do this because of the additional powers and financial assistance which it makes available.

My Lords, the Scottish Tourist Board has been paying close attention to the potentialities of the area. The Eastern Cairngorms is the subject of one of the regional studies which the Board has commissioned. This study is being undertaken by Professor Walton of Aberdeen University. The North-East Consultative Group of the Scottish Economic Planning Council has also been taking an interest in the study, and a local liaison committee has been formed. The study will be able to draw on the results of previous surveys of visitors to the area and its skiing facilities which the Board has undertaken, and in particular a study undertaken in the 1966–67 winter season of the Beinn a'Bhuird snowfields, the possibilities of which the Cairngorm Report identified and to which several noble Lords have referred to-day. But here again this will mean new road facilities, and it is probably here, as the Cairngorm Report suggests, that the next really big new development is likely to take place.

It is not possible for me to say how soon this will be, whether there will be another Fraser, another group of people who will in fact be able to help with facilities in that area when the roads are available. I do not know how far it is from the railway lines, but it is obviously not going to be so convenient as Aviemore, and it is difficult to see when these developments will come. The Tourist Board has also joined with the Highlands and Islands Development Board in a study of Upper Strathspey. I am very glad that the two Boards are working together on this because tourist development is a matter—we must all accept this—of major importance in this area. But the development which has taken place at Aviemore has a wider significance and one of the main purposes which the Boards have in mind in studying it is to see what lessons they can learn with the object of stimulating larger scale concentrations of wet-weather and evening entertainment facilities elsewhere in Scotland.

One thing I should have liked to ask noble Lords who have ski-ed in that area is this. How far are local guides and ski instructors being recruited from the people of the district? After all, this has become a main source of wealth and an occupation to the people of Austria and Switzerland. I hope, when we are asked to one of these Scottish centres, that we shall hear the instructors speaking in Scottish accents worthy of the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman.


I can assure the noble Lord that it is already the case, quite extensively.


I am delighted to hear that. The noble Earl has the advantage. He has been there, and I have not so far.


My Lords, there is a very efficient local mountain rescue team which operates from Aviemore. It is entirely local.


I know of their admirable mountain rescue facilities. In this connection the R.A.F. have not been backward on occasions in lending a hand in mountain rescues.

My Lords, I think we must all be grateful to the noble Earl for giving us this useful and, to me, fascinating debate. We are all agreed, as the Secretary of State said in his foreward to the Report, that no other area in Britain can offer more dramatic opportunities for all-the-year-round outdoor recreation than the Cairngorms. The Aviemore Centre has had a variety of amusements, a blend of indoor and outside. A notable beginning has been made, and the Report clearly points out the directions that developments might take. How soon they will be achieved will depend to a great extent on the availability of money. At this moment, when severe restraints are necessary, it is no good my promising noble Lords anything that looks very hopeful. But it is under way; it is moving; expenditure is continuing; and I will certainly see that not only my right honourable friend (who I know never ceases to fight hard for Scotland) but other of my colleagues in Government are made aware of the importance of this development, not merely in terms—


My Lords, I did not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but I would ask whether the Government consider this Report to be a tourism report, or whether it applies to 1,500 square miles of endeavour by indigenous industries to bring themselves up and develop themselves. Does the noble Lord not consider that the Council who produce this Report have been unjust to the people of the area, in so far as they have dismissed their potential in a few paragraphs?


My Lords, I was, of course, addressing my remarks mainly to the Question on the Order Paper, which was related to winter sports. This is the matter we are debating to-day. None the less, the debate has rightly gone wide. You cannot discuss an area like the Cairngorms without covering the whole subject. I must confess that I would rather leave it to my noble friend Lord Hughes, since the noble Lord is raising an aspect of the Report that is not covered by the Question. In any case, I do not know the answer. It would be unfair to the noble Lord and to the House, as well as dangerous for me, to give an answer off the cuff.


My Lords, I was referring merely to what the Report has said: that tourism cannot prosper in its full potential unless care is given to the development of the basic indigenous industries of the area, particularly of agriculture. When I refer to that I am still within the ambit of the discussion to-day, which is tourism, and which cannot prosper unless the rest of the issues within this great area are also looked at and discussed.


I am sure that we shall hear from the noble Lord on other occasions. I am not competent to deal with this aspect. I would not suggest for one moment that anything he said was not relevant to the debate and I am sure that the principles he has enunciated are generally sound in relation to any community activity. You cannot just think in terms of a single strand of development where great vulnerability may arise. None the less, it appears that in this field of tourism, and in the development of winter sports and summer sports in this area, there lies a really exciting thing, not merely for the people of that area—and it is of great importance to them—but as a real national asset.

I hope that the noble Earl will be gratified by the response to this debate and that the people who are working in this area (so many of them with such selfless faith all these years), will feel encouraged.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his telling us so fully what is in the Government's mind?


My Lords, may I also thank the noble Lord for his reply to me?

House adjourned at two minutes before seven o'clock.