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Tourism Minister Alasdair Morrison
"We have got a big job of work to do"
 real 28k

Friday, 13 April, 2001, 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK
Minister's 'regret' over Italy trip
Alasdair Morrison
Alasdair Morrison: The holiday was booked months ago
Scotland's tourism minister has said he regrets causing any offence to people working in the industry by taking a holiday in Italy.

Alasdair Morrison was speaking for the first time after he returned to the UK from his overseas trip.

He was arriving back to face intense criticism of his decision to holiday abroad during the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Foot-and-mouth pyre
The foot-and-mouth crisis hit tourism
Opposition politicians accused him of "gross insensitivity" - and the Scottish National Party is calling on First Minister Henry McLeish to make a statement about his minister's actions.

Mr Morrison flew home on Friday to be with his wife, family and his father-in-law, who is very ill in hospital.

Speaking after his plane touched down in London, he defended his actions and said the trip was booked long before the first outbreaks of foot-and-mouth.

He said: "I genuinely regret if anyone within the tourism industry is offended that I took a long-arranged family break.

"If anyone is genuinely insulted or offended I can only apologise."

Important point

However, he denied accusations that he was asking people to do what he said rather than what he did by urging them to holiday in Scotland.

He said he would also be spending time in Skye and Dumfries and Galloway.

And he said: "The important point we have to get across here to political opponents is that we have got a big job of work to do to convince the people in North America to come to the UK and to come to Scotland for holidays.

"It is a safe destination.

"We also have a job of work to do to grow our English market, to get English people to holiday in Scotland, and that is something we are doing."

David McLetchie
David McLetchie: Enough has been said
The SNP is urging Mr McLeish to get involved and make a statement on whether he agrees that Mr Morrison made an error of judgment.

The Nationalists say it seems clear that the minister did make a mistake - and that a statement from the first minister is the only way to draw a line under it.

But Scottish Tory Leader David McLetchie said enough had already been said about Mr Morrison's holiday.

"The time has now come to put this ministerial gaffe behind us, and concentrate our efforts on helping Scotland's tourism industry during its time of need," he said.

In another development, the Scottish Executive has refused to comment on reports that the most senior civil servant in charge of tourism was taking a break in France.

Major downturn

A spokesman said the executive did not comment on individual cases, but stressed the departmental structure was adequate at all times.

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.

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