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MP Tommy Graham
"I think he should resign now"
 real 28k

BBC Scotland's David Nisbet reports
"When the holiday break came around it surprised many he was found in Italy and not Scotland"
 real 56k

Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK
Minister hits back at holiday jibes
Alasdair Morrison
Alasdair Morrison: The holiday was booked months ago
Scotland's under-fire tourism minister has defended his decision to have a family holiday in Italy as the foot-and-mouth crisis continues.

Alasdair Morrison's foreign trip has been dubbed "grossly insensitive" by opposition MSPs and tourist trade chiefs questioned the timing of the move.

But on Thursday, as he was preparing to fly back to Scotland to be with an ill family member, the minister said he has done everything he can to help the industry.

He said: "There is a perception that I am not supporting the Scottish tourism industry.

Scottish Scenery
Foot-and-mouth is keeping tourists away
"Those in the industry will know that I have done more than anyone in the past few months to work with them to find a way through the current crisis.

"I have had a holiday booked in Italy with my family and my sister's family since the beginning of the year.

"Everyone knows that family holidays over the Easter break need to be organised well in advance.

"This part of our holiday was booked before the foot-and-mouth outbreak. As I said in my statement to parliament last week, I will be on holiday in Scotland later in the year.

He added: "I am returning to Scotland to join my wife and father-in-law who is very ill in hospital. My priority at this time is to support my family."

Mr Morrison was in the US last week, with First Minister Henry McLeish, to try to convince the Americans that Scotland is "open for business".

George Lyon
George Lyon: "Astonished by the trip's timing"
Scotland's tourist trade has suffered a major downturn since the start of the foot-and-mouth crisis and efforts are being made to bring back overseas visitors.

Mr Morrison's efforts to assist the industry have been well received, but the timing of his trip has been attacked.

Liberal Democrat MSP George Lyon said: "I was astonished to learn that the tourism minister was taking his holiday abroad."

He added: "How can he preach one thing but practise another? As tourism minister he should be leading by example and should be seen to be representing and supporting the Scottish tourism industry at this time of financial crisis."

The SNP accused him of acting with "gross insensitivity" and the Tories said many people would view his trip as being a "bit rich".

And the independent MP Tommy Graham said the minister should have recognised the folly of going abroad at this time.

Mr Graham told BBC Radio Scotland's Newsdrive programme: "I think he should resign now.

"Who knows what is going to happen to the tourist industry, especially if a minister for tourism doesn't show solidarity with the rest of the country."

Tourism show sign
Efforts are being made to help the tourist trade
Duncan Dewar, chief executive of the Fife-based tourist operations Days Away and Best of Scotland's Holidays, said Mr Morrison's decision was "disgraceful".

"I think that it's extremely insensitive for a politician to do that. He's made a real gaffe," he said.

"It is ill-thought at a time when businesses are struggling to survive during the foot-and-mouth crisis.

"I think he should sit down and give himself a long, long time to think about what he has done."

Scotland's Best B&Bs Association expressed disappointment in the minister who, it said, had done much to try to promote tourism.

Chairwoman Joan Campbell said: "I like Alasdair Morrison but what he has done is disappointing, and although I know he is a young man with a family, I think he really was duty-bound to cancel the holiday."

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Scotland
Fury at minister's foreign holiday
11 Apr 01 | Scotland
Royal Highland Show cancelled
06 Apr 01 | Scotland
Tourism VAT plan rejected
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