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Wild Scotland responds to today’s Scottish Government update relating to Phase 3 changes

30th July 2020

We are deeply disappointed that today’s announcement by Scotland’s First Minister once again delivers no support to the struggling outdoor and marine tourism sector in Scotland. These businesses are ready and desperate to recommence business operations but are prevented from doing so properly by the prolonging of the 2m rule, despite this being relaxed for other sectors, some of which are indoors.  We would like to express our deep concern for the future of the sector and the economic viability of many businesses going forward and are urgently seeking further clarification from the Scottish Government on this.

 

We have pled with the Scottish Government on many occasions to reduce the social distancing from 2 metres to 1 metre for outdoor and marine operators, pointing out that these activities will be taking place in a safe, well ventilated outdoor environment. It is evident that outdoor spaces with a much higher degree of ventilation are less problematic and much safer environments especially when compared to an indoor eating environment where social distancing has been reduced already to 1 metre. Most activities are also for a relatively short duration meaning any exposure times are limited as well as being in the fresh open air. We must also remember that the benefits of being active and outdoors are widely understood to being beneficial in the recovery of Covid-19, so surely activity in a healthy outdoor environment is helping to reduce the risk as opposed to sitting indoors as is now permitted in other sectors such as in restaurants, hairdressers etc.

 

There has to be a common sense approach here. The outdoor and marine tourism sector is incredibly adaptable, safety is always at the forefront of staff and visitor activity. Operators are used to stringent standards and risk assessments are common practice so we have every confidence that operators would act in a responsible and safe manner. We have also pointed out that additional precaution to mitigate the risks associated with being in closer proximity could be put in place such as screens, facemasks, appropriate disinfection and sanitisation between clients etc.

A reduction to 1 metre (which would take place only in an outdoor, well ventilated safe environment) would make a tremendous difference to the majority of businesses in the sector and in many cases could mean the difference as to whether or not they survive the season.

 

We are talking now about business survival and the jobs that go with that which will be lost. These micro businesses are really struggling, some have received zero financial support from government so far and now they are facing an incredibly short season with a much-reduced capacity and at the same time they see other sectors in arguably less safe operating environments allowed to function at 1m distancing. The season will end at the end of October and will not begin again until April 2021.

These businesses are located in fragile rural locations whose economy depends on the tourism season. Should physical distancing continue to remain at 2 metres, many of these small operators will be running at a significant loss with the very real risk that many may not be around to operate next season in 2021, when it will be imperative that Scotland has the product ready and available to meet the growing tourism demand going forward.

 

In the months and years to come, we expect to see a significant increase in the demand for outdoor related activity from wellbeing breaks to adventure activities including wildlife watching, bushcraft & survival and activity holidays. Over the next couple of years, there will be a strong emphasis on domestic tourism, visitors that usually head elsewhere for their adventure’ holidays (such as New Zealand, Peru, Iceland etc.) will be a potential new and affluent market for Scotland. We therefore need to ensure survival of the outdoor sector and the skilled jobs within it so that we are open and ready in 2021 to meet this demand and welcome many new faces to Scotland which of course brings significant economic benefits to rural communities.

Right now, we have an opportunity to not only re-shape Scottish Tourism for the better, but to highlight the unique selling point of Scotland’s great outdoors – wild and safe open spaces, world-class wildlife and meaningful adventure. To ensure this happens and that we grasp the opportunities ahead, we need to make sure we protect our finest assets to ensure memorable, world class and sustainable experiences.

 

We will be asking the Scottish Government to outline their rationale and evidence base behind their decisions to reduce the physical distancing from 2 metres to 1 metre across some sectors in Scotland, including some indoor operations, whilst continuing to exclude the outdoor tourism sector. We continue to be highly confident that outdoor tourism operations can operate safely at 1 metre distancing and we now need to find a way forward together to support and save the many businesses continuing to be impacted by this restriction.

 

Victoria Brooks                       Douglas McAdam

Wild Scotland Manager         Wild Scotland Chair

 

For further information, please contact Victoria Brooks: victoria@wild-scotland.co.uk  01738 710332 / 07868339404

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