One of the concerns which we have heard at some recent Yes roadshows in rural Clydesdale is that the tourism industry is struggling and some businesses have wondering how independence would affect them. Would it be a draw for tourists or a disaster?
The tourism potential of southern Scotland is definitely under-rated and under promoted. If the beautiful and historic areas in southern Scotland were in Cumbria, the hills would be packed with walkers, people would come to watch our ospreys, and eat our excellent locally produced food. But would Independence change this? Probably not. The problem is could be addressed now by local councils working with tourist bodies such as VisitScotland and local people if they woke up to what potential there is. This is something which needs fixed regardless of the referendum result!
What about other ways in which Independence might affect tourism? Although views differ on this, we might end up with a different currency to the rest of the UK, something which my party, the Greens favour. Would this deter tourists? I doubt it! The UK already has a currency which it doesn’t share with any other country, but this does not deter tourists any more than it prevents us from holidaying abroad. People in the south of England don’t let the fact that France has a different currency stop them from hopping across the channel for days out or shopping!
After Independence we might have a different tax system to the rest of the UK. But what’s that got to do with tourism? Well, if we could control our tax system we could reduce VAT, a tax which falls disproportionately on the less well off, and recoop the income from more progressive taxation. This would make goods and services purchased in Scotland cheaper than in England, which would attract tourists, particularly to areas close to border.
Of course onerous border controls might put off tourists, but if we signed the Schegen agreement we could reduce border controls with most EU countries. The UK hasn’t signed Schegen so if border controls were to be erected it would be up to England. It seems unlikely that this would happen, but it did let’s not forget that Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall were once amongst the tourist highlights of Berlin!
Finally airports. We have airports. Strategically important airports. So we will continue to be able to welcome visitors travelling by air. Except that Lord Fraser of Carmyllie the former Solicitor General for Scotland has warned that if Scotland was left “undefended” (possibly because it had removed weapons of mass destruction from its soil) England have no alternative “but to come and bomb the hell out of Glasgow airport and Edinburgh airport.” Really? This sounds like just another scaremongering statement from the pro-Union campaign!
So in conclusion I don’t think that Independence poses a threat to our tourist industry, and could offer new opportunities to welcome visitors from around the world including the rest of the UK to our wonderful area! And of course there will still be shops on the Royal Mile selling tartan dollies in tubes!