Angus MP backs campaign to boost seaside visitors

Mike Weir MP
Mike Weir MP

Angus MP Mike Weir has joined forces with other politicians from seaside towns in a bid to cut tourism VAT and boost visitor numbers.

The Scottish MPs have joined politicians and businesses from coastal constituencies up and down the UK in a bid to drive up investment and tourism by cutting VAT for the sector.

The SNP’s Mr. Weir, Labour’s Lindsay Roy of Glenrothes, and Lib Dem Alan Reid of Argyll and Bute have all backed the Cut Tourism VAT campaign, along with 60 others from around the UK, over half of which are from coastal constituencies.

Mr. Weir said: “When the present UK Government published their tourism strategy in 2011, they stated that they aimed to generate four million extra visitors up to 2015 and create 50,000 new jobs through the increase in overseas visitors.

“We need to give our tourism industries a boost and a chance to fight back, rather than asking them to fight with one hand tied behind their backs because we refuse to match the change in VAT seen in the EU.”

The MPs wants to encourage more visitors to Scotland, and to make British tourism more competitive with Europe, where many countries pay as little as five per cent VAT on accommodations and attractions.

Research has shown that reducing the rate, which is allowed under EU law, would allow lower prices and increased investment into attractions and accommodation, which would boost jobs and attract more tourists.

Numerous local and national businesses have also backed the campaign, who want to see growing support from Westminster for policies that will add to regional economies, and allow them to compete on a level playing field with Europe.

While Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to support tourism, few places outside of London have felt much of a boost – with many seeing a decline in visitors as the improving economy again sees more Brits holidaying abroad.

Tourism contributes over £11.6bn annually to Scottish GDP, 10.3 per cent of the total, and remains one of the largest regional employers, supporting 292,000 jobs, or 10.9 per cent of the Scottish workforce.

In Argyll and Bute alone it accounts for 13.7 per cent of employment, making it the constituency’s single largest employer. A VAT cut would allow operators to lower prices, invest more in facilities, and increase the number of employees, attracting more visitors.

Despite this, there is no central plan in place in Westminster to help regional constituencies continue this.

Next year’s election will again give coastal constituencies a strong voice amongst the political parties – in 2010’s election, a large number of coastal constituencies were swing locations. This is giving local people and businesses a chance to lobby Whitehall for policies that would help the local economy.

Graham Wason, chairman of the CUT Tourism VAT campaign, said: “Scotland continues to have a thriving tourism sector but potential growth is being hampered by the startling anti-competitive stance we have at the moment with such high levels of VAT relative to other EU states. Crucially, this is about support domestic investment and jobs in places that all too often get overlooked.”