Having just returned from a holiday in Switzerland, I have been increasingly struck by the shortcomings of the Scottish tourism offer. Scotland and Switzerland have much in common; small, mountainous countries with populations under 10million, magnificent scenery and a heavy reliance on tourism, both internal and, increasingly international.
But here the similarity ends. For the Swiss have invested massively in their transport infrastructure ; the quality of the billiard table-like roads and the superb railways are such that we in Scotland can only dream of. To focus on the trains, the most scenic lines are traversed by clean, modern, panoramic trains with at-seat meal service and multi-lingual commentary. And what do we have on our “world class” scenic rail routes? Two coach so-called “Sprinters” , a tea trolley (if you are lucky) and seats that don’t even line up with the windows.
And if you decide to drive? Swiss roads are beautifully engineered, immaculately maintained and dotted with quality service stops. From the Borders to the Highlands, we have potholes, illegible road markings, and verges where Coke cans are more common than wild flowers. As tourism becomes ever more global, Scotland needs drastically to up its game. Much has improved immeasurably; accommodation, catering, historical interpretation and information, the facilities for outdoor activities, but the provision of the basic connectivity remains truly antediluvian.