Scottish Budget disappoints in delivering support for Scotland’s attractions sector in 2022

There was mixed reaction to the Scottish Budget for 2022/23, announced on Thursday 9 December. Whilst news of the continuation of rates relief was welcomed, the consensus from the country’s industry sectors was that the support measures noted by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy were less than adequate. 

From the perspective of tourism, there was disappointingly little in the Budget that directly references our industry.  The only statement of importance was that rates relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will continue at 50% for the first three months of the next financial year, capped at £27,500 per ratepayer, while smaller businesses will be exempt from paying rates. Even this positive development, however, fell significantly short of what had been hoped for. 

More disappointing though was the fact that there was no specific mention by Kate Forbes MSP of any measures to support Scotland’s attractions sector.  

ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison commented: “My initial reaction on hearing the Budget was one of disappointment that so little is being done to aid our sector and wider tourism industry.

“Ms Forbes made reference to the Fiscal Commission forecasting that our economy will recover to pre-pandemic levels by April–June 2022. This may well be the case across the economy as a whole, but it is undeniable that our sector most certainly won’t have recovered in six months time.

“Although we’ve been appreciative of the support offered by the Scottish Government over the last 20 months, it is very unsatisfactory that there was no recognition in this Budget that our sector has not had any significant opportunity to progress its recovery in 2021 and Scotland’s attractions will still be in a difficult position in 2022.

“Whilst we of course welcome additional short-term rates relief for those members who will be able to benefit from it, it is much more than just short-term support that our sector is in need of.  Data we have presented to the Scottish Government shows that many attractions are in survival mode at the moment as they battle to make it through the winter with barely any cash reserves. Recovery is still a long way off and our sector certainly won’t be back on its feet by June 2022.

“There is no doubt that more action is needed to sustain our sector and assist its recovery, and we need both the Scottish and UK Governments to recognise that greater support measures are required than those currently on the table. ASVA will continue to work closely alongside other associations and industry groups to inform and influence policy makers about the status of our sector and the support that’s required to enable the industry to not simply scrape through another season, but to build back better and meet our collective ambition of being world leaders in 21st century tourism.”