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Enterprise Minister Alasdair Morrison
"I repeat my plea to private landowners , they must take the wider view"
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SNP's Kenny MacAskill
"We think this would stimulate demand"
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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Tourism VAT plan rejected
Foot-and-mouth outbreak
The minister has asked for more co-operation
Calls for a selective VAT reduction to help the tourist trade over the foot-and-mouth crisis have been rejected by the Scottish Executive.

The Scottish National Party said such a move is required to offer foreign visitors an added incentive to come to Scotland.

But Enterprise Minister Alasdair Morrison said the executive has introduced a raft of measures to ensure the tourism industry will be ready for the Easter holidays.

Mr Morrison also called on private landowners to work in tandem with the executive to ensure the countryside re-opened as quickly as possible.

Alasdair Morrison
Alasdair Morrison: Help is being offered
The SNP's demands were made as a third case of foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed in the Borders.

The outbreak extended to Powis Home Farm, north of Newcastleton, where the two previous cases are located.

SNP Enterprise spokesman Kenny MacAskill told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that reducing costs was the only effective way to help the ailing tourism industry.

Mr MacAskill said his party advocated reducing VAT rates from 17% to 5% for accommodation and visitor attractions.

He said: "This would get people out and about this Easter and keep businesses alive. We think this would stimulate demand.

"If every Scot visited a B&B or hotel this Easter then I believe the industry would stay afloat."

'Business down 100%'

But the executive has said major efforts are being made to help the industry and re-open major tourist attractions like the West Highland Way.

Mr Morrison said the SNP's VAT plans were not credible.

But the ongoing crisis is causing frustration for tourism operators and executive hopes for the West Highland Way to be re-opened in time have been met with some scepticism.

Gilbert McVean, whose company Travel Lite transports backpackers luggage along the West Highland Way, said the executive had not done enough to tell tourists arriving in the country that the situation was improving.

Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill: "Get people out and about"
Mr McVean said landowners were worried over the current situation and that it was time for the executive to offer some comfort.

He said "My business is 100% down, hotels are 80% down and people will go into receivership."

Mr McVean added he did not believe the executive was in touch with "feelings on the ground".

But Mr Morrison said landowners should make sure they knew the latest guidance surrounding the threat of foot-and-mouth disease.

"I don't blame any landowner or local authority for taking the precautionary approach from the outset," he said.

"But we now have clearly defined structures and guidance. It is up to people to make sure that they find the information.

Risk assessments

"The only people who can infect their farms are those who come directly from an infected farm wearing coats or boots or driving vehicles they were using on those farms.

"The guidance is quite clear and it is up to people to find out where is open. This information is available on every website known to man."

The minister urged private landowners to take a wider view of the crisis and conduct risk assessment exercises to ascertain whether the land was free of the disease.

He added that the executive was committed to getting the West Highland Way open for the holidays.

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See also:

03 Apr 01 | Scotland
Pyres prompt health fears
03 Apr 01 | Scotland
Scotland launches tourism offensive
31 Mar 01 | Scotland
Blair praises foot-and-mouth efforts
28 Mar 01 | Scotland
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