Highlands & Islands MSP, Dr Winnie Ewing, is calling on the Labour-Liberal administration to look into what impact high bridge tolls combined with high petrol taxes are having on the Skye tourist trade. Her call comes after the results of a tourism survey in Argyll which shows that 5% of tourists will not return to Scotland because of high fuel costs. Dr Ewing said:
"I suppose the apologists for high petrol taxes will argue that this is not a high figure but that does not say much for their commitment to increasing the numbers of visitors to Scotland. Tourism in Scotland has remained static for this year and I am convinced the high costs of taxes and the high pound are impacting on the Scottish tourist sector."
"Constituents in Skye have also raised the matter of Skye Bridge tolls and the impact it must be having on the local tourist trade along with high petrol prices. The people of Skye have the added damage to their tourism trade of the highest tolls in Europe at £11.40 return for a car. If VAT is added to the tolls at 17.5% this will rise to £13.40 return for a tourist to come to Skye. It has been stressed to me that many of them simply don't; they do a U-turn at the toll barrier and go somewhere else. I have been told that this can result in a loss to the Skye economy of approximately £2 million a year!
"Tolls and high petrol costs are a double whammy to the what may be the main industry for Skye. The problem is that when such high cost reputations are acquired they are difficult to discard. These high costs only damage Skye's tourism trade by restricting the number of visitors who would come, or consider coming, to Skye, were it not for their fears of high expense.
"Henry McLeish and the Executive must listen to these criticism and take action. They must make public representations to the Government in London on high fuel costs. And they, and their Liberal partners, should fulfil the promise they made to the people of Skye on tolls."
Back in November 1999, the Scottish Executive stated that if they were forced by Europe to charge VAT, that the additional cost would be absorbed by them. Let's hope that if it does happen that they will be good to their word.
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Most recent revision, 25 March 2000