This year sees the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup, Year of Homecoming and MTV Europe music awards – clearly, tourism plays a substantial role in Scotland’s economy.
A report by Deloitte found that the industry was worth £11.6billion to the country’s economy in 2013 and supports more than 292,000 jobs. The report said that the sector could be worth £23.1billion by 2025.
Scotland is set to experience a tourism boom, with growth faster than in the rest of the UK. The report stated this would bring longer-term benefits, especially for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.
As an independent nation, Scotland can use the full range of economic powers to make the most of the country’s global popularity.
The national tourism strategy features nine key areas for growth. These include outdoor activities, events and festivals, key destinations, business tourism, heritage tourism, quality and skills for visitor experience, food and drink entertainment, sustainability and digital connectivity. Improving these aspects of visiting Scotland aims to increase visitor numbers from four key geographical areas – the rest of the UK; near European neighbours; the USA, Canada and Australia; and emerging markets in India, China, Russia and Brazil.
So why is being an independent nation important?
Independence will give the Scottish Government greater powers to support tourism through alterations to the tax system, international promotion and capital infrastructure projects such as extending the Waverley line to Carlisle (feasibility study already announced).
Attracting direct flights from key overseas markets is to be a priority for Prestwick airport. With this we can build on the opportunities of the Waverley line and the proposed extension to Carlisle.
Reductions in VAT will encourage greater investment and reduce tourism costs. The Scottish Tourism Alliance and British Hospitality Association both support a cut in tourism VAT in an independent Scotland.
An independent Scotland is expected to cut air passenger duty (APD) by at least 50 per cent to encourage more flights to Scotland. Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways, and Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, have both agreed that reductions in APD would support growth in tourist numbers.
Government can promote Scotland’s tourism strengths through networks, embassies and events. The Scottish Government already promotes this country as a destination through VisitScotland projects and events overseas like Tartan Week.
Scotland will have greater global reach and resources for promoting international tourism projects. Scotland Development International currently has 27 global offices.
An independent Scotland will have at least 70 embassies. We can expect diplomatic missions from around the world to set-up in Scotland for government relations. Inevitably, this will encourage closer links and trips between Scotland and peoples from nations across the world.
Independence for Scotland is the best way for those living and working in our nation to take responsibility for our future and ensure decisions are taken with our best interests above all else.