CONCERNS have been raised over the future of the local tourism industry.

At a recent meeting of the members of the Loch Lomond Destination Management Group fears were expressed over the future as well as a reported “lack of support” from the Scottish Government.

Following the meeting Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton’s MSP, challenged Richard Lochhead, Scottish Tourism Minister, to meet with leading tourist businesses operating across the Loch Lomond area.

Ms Baillie is also calling on the Scottish Government to pass on money it had received to cut business rates for hospitality firms - something which has already been implemented in England.

She said: “It is disappointing that the Tourism Minister was unwilling to commit to reducing rates for tourism businesses which the Scottish Government was given funds to do.

“This demonstrates the lack of awareness of the hard work that people put in throughout the year to attract visitors to the likes of Loch Lomond and offer them a reason to return.

“It is quite clear that the Scottish Government is letting businesses down which will have a detrimental effect on the entire economy.

“I sincerely hope that Mr Lochhead will keep his promise to meet with the Loch Lomond Destination Management Group and properly listen to their concerns with a view to trying to save the tourism industry before it collapses.”

In England, businesses in the tourism sector are eligible for rates relief of up to 75 percent but this is yet to be introduced in Scotland despite funding having been made available from the UK Government to deliver the scheme.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Tourism Minister has engaged widely with hospitality businesses across Scotland over the Summer, and as he informed Jackie Baillie in parliament he would be happy to meet with any tourism businesses to hear their views on this matter.

“The New Deal for Business Group continues to look at Non-Domestic Rates and has wide representation from the business community.  

“A number of measures in the Budget already benefit properties in the tourism and hospitality sectors including the lowest poundage in the UK for the fifth year in a row, and the transitional relief schemes proposed for 2023-24.  

"Freezing the poundage is forecast to save ratepayers an estimated £305 million in 2023-24, which is much more than the £169 million of consequential funding that Scotland received in respect of a freeze in the multiplier in England this year.

“It is estimated that around half of properties in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors are eligible for 100% Small Business Bonus Scheme relief this financial year. 

"The Scottish Government has no powers to amend or introduce new non-domestic rates reliefs in-year via subordinate legislation.

"Decisions for the next financial year will be made at Budget alongside other government priorities.”