Summary note of the STA Council Meeting 8 April 2020

Thu 9 Apr 20


Fergus Ewing MSP           Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism


STA Council

Emma McQuillan – Caravan and Motorhome Club
Ken Bramham – Scottish Tourist Guides Association
Victoria Brooks – Wild Scotland
Claire Bruce –  VisitAberdeenshire
Fiona Campbell – Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers
Joss Croft – UK InBound
Joseph Cullis – British Amusement Catering Trade Association
John White – British Amusement Catering Trade Association
Bernard Donoghue – ALVA
Donald Elmslie – Edinburgh Tourism Action Group
Sheila Gilmore – VisitArran
Iain Jurgensen – Argyll & Isles Tourism Co-0p
Willie Macleod – UK Hospitality (Scotland)
David Richardson – Federation of Small Businesses
Vera Kokeny – Federation of Small Businesses
Simon McGrath – Camping and Caravanning Club
Rob McKinnon – Outer Hebrides Tourism Industry Association
Caroline Millar – Go Rural for Business
Stephen Montgomery – Scottish Licensed Trade Association
Gordon Morrison – ASVA
Andrea Nicholas – Green Tourism
Margo Paterson – Hostelling Scotland
Alan Rankin – Sail Scotland
Jeremy Tinsley – Confederation for Passenger Transport
Paul Tognieri – Scottish Beer & Pub Association
Sarah Troughton – Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group
Elaine Tulloch – Destination Orkney
Gemma Watt – Scottish Destination Management Association
David Weston – Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association
Jeanette Wilson – British Holiday & Home Parks Association
Tom Clements – National Outdoor Events Association
Marc Crothall – Scottish Tourism Alliance
Mhairi Clarke – Scottish Tourism Alliance
Karen Christie – Scottish Tourism Alliance


STERG Members

Leon Thompson – VisitScotland
Barbara Clark – VisitScotland
Bettina Sizeland – Scottish Government
Lawrence Durden – Skills Development Scotland
Paul McCafferty – Scottish Enterprise
Steven Dott – Highlands & Islands Enterprise
John Evans – South of Scotland Enterprise


STA Board Members

Stephen Leckie – Crieff Hydro/STA Chair
Calum Ross – UK Hospitality (Scotland)
Marshall Dallas – EICC
Freda Newton – Jacobite Cruises
Gordon Dewar – Edinburgh Airport

Issues for discussion:

  1. Grant eligibility
  2. Self-employment – particularly the requirement for three-year trading history
  3. Furlough – flexibility around furlough, part-time furlough and concern regarding the flow through of cash for April payment of staff/quicker access
  4. Small and medium businesses who have fallen through the net and are not able to access support, for example, small B&Bs, coach operators, events venues – there is still an immediate need for cash
  5. Recognition that we have the need for ongoing support for a lengthy period

Cabinet Secretary Update

Fully accept that the packages of support don’t cover all businesses.  The Scottish Government has used most of the £2.2B that was allocated initially.  In Scotland we have more businesses within the tourism sector and there is an issue around how far the money goes.

The aim of the Scottish Government is to try to tide businesses over and Mr Ewing acknowledged that businesses who have not received as much as they would have done down south feel aggrieved

As far as the gaps go, Mr Ewing has advocated that the residual funding should be deployed in order to fill gaps.  He did express the view that B & Bs who don’t get rates relief should get some assistance to tide them over and confirmed that this argument has been put forward in house.

In relation to the Job Retention Scheme, Self Employed Scheme and Business Interruption loan Scheme, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that difficulties have been recognised, particularly regarding self-catering businesses, those who have been trading for less than three years and the need for flexibility in furlough and he has highlighted a series of these problems to the UK Government on the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Scheme.  Mr Ewing acknowledged that the UK Tourism Minister understands these points and has a good grasp of these issues.

The Cabinet Secretary has also highlighted to the Tourism Minister that many businesses because of the RV exceeding the threshold, have been excluded from the £25,000 grant altogether and asked that more resource focused on this.  He has raised the point that the Business Interruption Scheme is not attractive to many businesses.

Mr Ewing did confirm that hopefully soon, within the next week, decisions will have been made on how the remaining £100m funds will be allocated and will advocate these be allocated to support the sector and business falling through the gap – he also stated that the Scottish Government has and will continue to push UK government for more funding to be made available also stressing the disproportionate number of tourism business in Scotland vs England skewing the consequential pay out  plus pressing on other issues of support that are reserved.

Also discussed at the meeting:

  • (Steve SLTA) cited inconsistencies in the interpretation of the grant criteria within local authorities and in the flow of grants to businesses.  There is need for greater clarity around eligibility and a direct communication from COSLA/Scottish Government around the release of the grants.
  • (Tom NOEA ) Outdoor events and suppliers – they have been acknowledged in the UK Government as a sector group but this has not happened in Scotland.
  • (Alan Sail Scotland ) Marine Sector – could there be support for marine businesses that are operating in rural communities?
  • Marc Crothall referenced the suggestion at a morning meet to help address the concern of delayed flow of Furlough payments and the length of time this is taking, especially for businesses that don’t have access to grants.  Suggestion ask to govt to get banks to agree to increase overdrafts automatically in the short term to ensure that those businesses are not having to make rash decisions and lay people off.
  • (Fiona ASSC) – ref clarity on evidence for grants
  • (Gordon ASVA) The change in tone in communications from tourism businesses.  The mood has changed and conversations with many members across different sectors indicate despondency, anger and frustration as they realise that the support packages are not going to save their businesses
  • (Gordon ASVA)Visitor attractions, they have gone through a fallow winter period, anticipated a healthy season and invested in training and development but it is unlikely that they will even be for the season in 2021.
  • Mental health of people within the industry is starting to deteriorate with people becoming over exhausted, overworked, having to take pay cuts.
  • (Bernard ALVA) Flexibility in furlough – the possibility for those staff who have been furloughed to volunteer back if they wish for their employers.
  • (Gemma SDMA) Furlough perhaps following the Dutch approach – they have acknowledged that where a business is happy to top up, the government is allowing these individuals to do some work for the business.  Businesses need to bounce back and it does mean the workforce working in some capacity.
  • (John BACTA) Suggestion that we have a sliding scale that operates in bands for allocating grants based on Rateable Value
  • (Victoria Wild Scotland/Rob OHT) The indicators from Outer Hebrides and outdoor adventure sector are  looking at 18 months with little no work or income whatsoever.
  • Several  stated many other businesses falling between the gaps which make up the heart of the sector.  Small grants would make a huge difference and keep the rural economy afloat.
  • (Willie UKH) referenced they are also making case to treasury for grants to be paid above £51k – he will provide paper to Scot. Govt – Calum (UKH) also stated how typically rateable values are 30% higher than they are in  the UK which has a bearing on a greater % of properties vs England are missing out.  It was also stated that UKH had heard from the UK Minister that HMRC are hoping to begin furlough payments between 22-25 of April.
  • (Caroline Go Rural) is there an appeal process if a business gets turned down for the grant?
  • (Rob OHT ) Confusion around lockdown dates – we need clarity as visitors are asking about booking in the future.  Is there a date that people can work to?
  • (Gemma SDMA) Can a credit note be given instead of cash refund to protect cashflow at the moment?
  • (Sarah T SCSTG) ref need for rural workers working in solitary situations could they go back to work?

Cabinet Secretary response to conversation

Acknowledged that the mood has changed and that we’re looking at an 18-month recovery gap for many sectors within the industry such as events, marine, adventure tourism and visitor attractions.  The effect has been catastrophic and we do need to turn our thoughts to recovery at some point.

The immediate problem is to focus on the financial package and various schemes.  There is a need to improve the staff furlough scheme and it seems a willingness by the UK Government to do this.  Marine day trips – it has been identified as a gap and the Cabinet Secretary has asked for more evidence and info on that and also information/thoughts on the 140 day rule for self-catering businesses – feels that an element of flexibility could work and that 140 days may be on the high side.

The Cabinet Secretary said he would like to see more support and survival packages and with regards to grants and the rateable value of property, he said that he feels there is a case for the sliding scale – this would perhaps enable the Scottish Government to deal with the businesses who are falling between the gaps here in terms of Rateable Value and the number of properties.

Mr Ewing acknowledged that he is increasingly of the view that things are looking more difficult as time goes on and there is a lot of work to do in working with the STA and associations and Scottish Government is fully engaged in supporting the industry.

The issue around mental health has been noted and will be taken forward by the Cabinet Secretary as will all of the points raised at today’s meeting and both Mr Ewing and Scottish Government officials on the call today have highlighted the need for any evidence and information on all of the issues discussed to come through the channel of the STA, and indeed any new issues which have not been brought to the table to date.

Mr Ewing concluded by thanking the STA stating these meets were very useful and asking that council members  submit any other comments in writing via the STA so they can be presented in one consolidated submission to his office for he and his and fellow cabinet colleagues consideration and taking forward in their representation to UK Government too.

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