Cabinet Secretary for Tourism accepts Skye MSP’s invitation to visit island

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs has accepted an invitation from constituency MSP Kate Forbes to visit the Isle of Skye.

It is hoped that Fiona Hyslop will address a gathering of community representatives, local businesses and public bodies at the second of a series of meetings organised by Kate Forbes MSP. A date has yet to be finalised, but will be announced in due course.

These meetings are part an ongoing process led by Ms Forbes to identify and find solutions to the pressures on Skye caused by increases in tourism on the island.

Last month, the first of these took place in Portree and gathered expertise from local businesses and residents in a bid to cope with growing numbers of visitors.

Kate Forbes MSP explained: “I am delighted that Fiona Hyslop has accepted my invitation to come and visit Skye, which I firmly believe is the jewel in the crown of Highland tourism – as evidenced by the huge growth in visitor numbers.

“In previous discussions, the Cabinet Secretary has recognised the pressures on the island’s infrastructure, and the need to make the visitor experience excellent so that they return.

“We have been very successful in attracting people to the area, with marketing campaigns and fantastic natural scenery.

“However, there’s never been a forward-thinking tourism strategy that prepared for all the visitors – and so Skye desperately needs a tourism strategy that manages the influx of tourists.

“There is a clear need to bring together communities, businesses and public bodies to take things forward, and my meeting with these stakeholders last month was the first step in this process."

The Skye MSP continued: “We welcome tourists, but currently the infrastructure is creaking at the seams.

“Ordinary residents who have to get to the shops or pick up children from school are facing traffic jams in the most remote areas of Skye because of the number of cars.

“That’s even more dangerous if emergency vehicles can’t get past – then it can become a matter of extreme urgency.

“It is also making a mess of the landscape, with a number of stories about unpleasant presents left behind by those who can’t find a bin or a toilet.”

She concluded: “There is Scottish Government money already available via the local authority, community pots like the Land Fund and enterprise funds from HIE – all of which is funded by the Scottish Government.

“The real difficulty is that many of the issues have fallen through the cracks, and there hasn’t been a strategy which allocates responsibility for improving infrastructure.

“Take toilets or roads for example, these are the responsibility of local authorities, and yet we’ve seen toilets being shut across Skye in the last few years.

“Recently, we’ve seen plans to resolve parking at the Old Man of Storr, with Staffin Community Trust taking the lead, make progress. They’ve made use of the Scottish Government’s Land Fund.

“The Northern Lighthouse Board is investing in Neist Point too, which is an area that is hugely popular too.

“I welcome these efforts, but I firmly believe we need a robust plan and that’s why I have kicked off a series of meetings to bring everyone round the table and actually draft a plan that we can track progress against.”

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