Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce minutes: July 2020

Minutes and papers from the second meeting of the STRT in July 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism
  • Malcolm Roughead, CEO, VisitScotland
  • Marc Crothall, CEO, Scottish Tourism Alliance
  • Willie Macleod, Executive Director, UK Hospitality in Scotland
  • Stephen Leckie, CEO of Crieff Hydro and Chair STA
  • Angela Vickers, Apex Hotels, Chair HIT Scotland
  • Gordon Dewar, CEO, Edinburgh Airport
  • Freda Newton, MD, Jacobite Cruises
  • Robbie Drummond, CEO Calmac
  • Duncan McConchie, SOSE board, owner of Laggan Outdoors
  • Peter Duthie, MD of SEC
  • Jeanette Wilson, British Holiday and Home Parks Assoc
  • Rebecca Brooks, CEO Abbey Tours, VS Board
  • Alastair Dobson, MD, Taste of Arran
  • Mark Tate, Scottish Chambers of Commerce 
  • Calum Ross, Proprietor, Loch Melfort Hotel, Chairman UKH Scotland, HIE Board
  • Derek Brownlee, RBS (deputising for Malcolm Buchanan)
  • Lucy Husband, Scotland Food and Drink, UK Market Development Director
  • Gordon Morrison, CEO, ASVA (deputising for Susan Morrison, ASVA)
  • Susan Russell, Chair, Women in Tourism
  • Lord Thurso, Chair, VisitScotland
  • Stephen Montgomery, President, SLTA
  • Alan Rankin, Chief Executive, Sail Scotland
  • Caroline Millar, Go Rural for Business
  • Jane Martin, Managing Director, Business Services and Advice, Scottish Enterprise
  • Paul Togneri, Scottish Beer and Pub Assoc
  • Professor Anna Leask, Tourism & Languages Subject Group, Edinburgh Napier Uni
  • Colin Smith, CEO, Scottish Wholesale Association
  • Stephen Deans, Unite Union
  • Lucy Byatt, Director, the Hospitalfield Trust, Arbroath
  • Suzanne Cumisky, Chair SLAED, Perth and Kinross Council


  • Bettina Sizeland, Scottish Government
  • Duncan Mackay, Scottish Government
  • Kevin Brady, Scottish Government
  • Lawrence Durden, Skills Development Scotland, STERG
  • Karen Christie, Scottish Tourism Alliance, STERG
  • Frances Pacitti, Transport Scotland
  • Carroll Buxton, HIE


  • Malcom Buchanan, Chair of Scotland Board RBS
  • David Sutherland, Director, North Highland Escapes
  • Richard Hardy, Prospect Union
  • Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills

Items and actions


  • Marc Crothall welcomed all members
  • No comments were received regarding the minutes of the meeting of 25th June.  These would therefore now be published.

Introductory Comments – Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism

  • Mr Ewing thanked the group for their work, and aimed to have a conversation with all members over the next few weeks.
  • The First Minister had made positive announcements around the move to Phase 3 next week.  Lots of good work had been done on sectoral guidance and the group’s contribution was appreciated. 
  • The 1 metre rule should begin to help ferries issues for the islands, as well as the hospitality sector, but there was still concern for the weddings and conference sectors  
  • The Chancellor’s most recent announcement was welcome, but there was widespread feeling that it doesn’t meet the need on furlough or job support.  VAT reduction extremely welcome, although only until January.
  • Mr Ewing suggested a proposal for consideration on skills and employment – anticipate that considerable numbers of staff could potentially be laid off between now and Sept/Oct, with little prospect of regaining employment in the sector until spring.  Solutions are required as soon as possible, therefore the group should work with colleges and industry to develop courses training needed for the sector such as leadership, digital, languages, chefs etc that staff could be supported to undertake over the winter months.  To be looked at in Recovery part of the agenda

Agenda Item 1 (see attached papers 1a, 1b and 1c)

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland

  • VisitScotland presented to MSPs on 1st July.  45 MSPs participated and were keenly engaged.  See attached paper 1a.   VS will do another briefing in around 4 weeks’ time
  • The first Stimulating Demand workstream meeting took place this week.  Output and presentation papers for that were circulated as a basis for discussion.  See attached papers 1b and 1c. Immediate Actions were set out in the paper.
  • Some overlap with the output of Marc Crothall’s Recovery group, so will need to ensure this dovetails and does not duplicate.   Need to also align with 2030 tourism strategy, and pull in elements of Higgins Report and STA submission to that.
  • Community concerns and reassurance are still clearly an issue.  Agreed that we need to put some real weight behind community messaging and highlight the significant mitigation measures the industry is putting in place and the considerable amount of work that has been done on the sectoral guidance to ensure safety is paramount.   
  • The Good To Go scheme had been very popular with businesses signing up.  It was noted that it would be useful to see what other measures and schemes are happening elsewhere in Europe.
  • It was agreed that the behaviour of some individuals at the border is entirely unhelpful and Ministers have made their views on that extremely clear.  
  • Nonetheless it was noted that there was clear anecdotal evidence of English visitors unsure about arrangements on arriving in Scotland, so a bold message to say we are open would be helpful.
  • VisitScotland has been working hard with messaging to communities, business and consumers, but, it would be useful if VisitBritain messaging about Scotland being open could be louder

Agenda Item 2 (see Papers 2a and 2b)

Marc Crothall, STA

  • The Recovery working group convened yesterday after the First Minister’s announcement.
  • Members submitted their key issues of recovery focus looking through both business and workforce lens. These issues were then  broken down into immediate and further ahead.
  • A lot of commonality on key issues. Prior to that a lot of respondents had contributed to the Higgins report development, so plenty of insight and suggestion from members.
  • Will reconvene w/c 13th.  Will break the 15 pages down and categorise it, but will bring immediate recommendations forward as and when they arrive.
  • Key issues needing attention now include
    • clarity for events, conferences and weddings on a recommencement date, even if caveated.  
    • Clarity in 1m impact for outdoor adventure and marine tourism, amongst others
    • Swimming pools and leisure facilities for hotels and spas also an issue
  • Immediate requirements include the need to get any residual funding support out, targeted at need where possible.  We also need to ensure the issue of funding support stays on the radar longer term too.
  • STA has been looking at protecting emerging talent, for example through emerging from furlough into part time hours and learning, as Mr Ewing outlined at the start.  Marc introduced Lawrence Durden, SDS to talk about this.
  • Lawrence gave overview of some thinking – looking a model of part time work and training activity for 2-3 days a week each.  Links to Enterprise and Skills Strategy Board thinking on upskilling and reskilling. The detail needs to be worked out but there is a huge variety already available in colleges.  No reinvention is  needed – we just need to use it to develop 6 month programme of upskilling and multi skilling.  SDS is looking to scope out key issues for development of such a programme quickly, noting the cost could be substantial.  Once work is done, SDS will convene a meeting – ideally next week – with industry reps, and it could also be discussed at the Tourism Skills Group on Monday 13th.
  • Keen to know from hoteliers how this can best work for them and their employees.   This needs to be delivered well or the sector risks losing its people resource. Employers will have a role in identifying which individuals
  • Mr Ewing was pleased to note work is already ongoing looking at this.  Time is very tight.  Money is not likely to be the biggest challenge as there is clear and immediate need – there are previous examples of Government backed schemes of this kind and Ministers are supportive of this general proposal.
  • We need not wait for the taskforce report. Taskforce role also to recommend immediate action.
  • Unite and Prospect were keen to support these proposals regarding staff.  They and other unions have substantial resources for lifelong learning – tutors and trainers – who could feed into any programme.  Be good to tie into STUC affiliate and resources.   
  • Moving on, the group discussed mitigation measures and local authority enforcement around risk assessments and consistency of interpretation.  Final guidance on move from 2m to 1m was expected to be published by the Scottish Government tonight, which would give the sector time to act.
  • It was acknowledge that there was an issue of costs of implementing mitigations and how it might be funded.  Training may not be constrained by budget, but other aspects of recovery also need to be funded.  The group noted it would be useful to know UKG and SG resources might be available.
  • Mr Ewing acknowledged that more support will be required and this is a work in progress as Government tries to adapt to meet the funding challenges. The big gap is still the large employers which would be difficult to full, but in the recovery period it may well emerge who is able to survive and we can then look at where support is most needed.
  • Other issues raised included
    • VAT reduction should be expanded to activities sector – acknowledged as UKG issue but helpful if Scottish Government could press the case
    • Useful to have a roadmap on when larger activities can recommence eg large walking tours.
    • Weddings and gatherings – routemap implies events can be held within hospitality guidelines – so some clarity needed as room for varying interpretation.  It has been raised with Scottish Government officials and advice is expected shortly. Seaside amusement arcades is a similar issue.
    • Clarity and guidance needed on closed group coaches.
    • Furlough question – still not getting capacities from ferries to enable business to open safely from financial point of view, so there might be a need for an islands-specific furlough scheme.
    • It was noted that the cut off for grant applications was today and that Scottish Government should give serious consideration to any money left over directed in the way of >£51k RV businesses.
    • clarification for boat operators and tours.  Still seem to be 2m when ferries are 1m. 
    • Similar challenges to those discussed today are facing the events sector.  Planning time for events of any scale is key but need to retain talent and staff until then is a key issue. Interpretation of guidance across different Local Authorities also a difficulty.
  • In drawing the discussion to a close it was noted that we need to ensure we get immediate requirements clearly notified as they are time critical and that this can be done through both STERG and STA council meetings

Closing Remarks

  • Mr Ewing asked that if there are particular issues with interpretation of guidance, it would be helpful to get specific examples which we can then look into.
  • He noted the need the need for continued support for the international sector which likely would not see significant inbound business until Spring 2021.
  • He noted the big challenge in setting a date for resumption of weddings, events and conferences.  The Scottish Government was looking closely at this.
  • Finally, he noted that the group had discussed the need for immediate skills action today.  However, if other project ideas were emerging, the group should not wait until the report in published in September to look at actioning these. 

Next Plenary date: 20th August proposed (tbc)

Taskforce meeting 2 - VisitScotland update for MSPs - paper 1a

Taskforce meeting 2: Tourism Task Force Demand Subgroup 1 - paper 1b

Taskforce meeting 2: Note of Demand Sub Group Meeting held on 8 July - paper 1c

Taskforce meeting 2 - Recovery Working Group Meeting 1 - paper 2a

Taskforce meeting 2 - Recovery Working Group Submissions - paper 2b

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