THREE Scottish area tourist boards (ATBs) have joined forces to fight proposals to amalgamate them with seven other boards under proposals to create a single, bigger tourist board for the north of Scotland.
The Orkney Tourist Board, Shetland Islands Tourism and the Western Isles Tourist Board are bitterly opposed to Scottish Tourist Board (STB) proposals to reduce the existing 32 ATBs to just seven.
These three boards would be amalgamated with Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Skye, Inverness, Fort William and Aviemore to make one pan-Highlands and Islands Tourist Board.
Angus Macmillan, director of tourism for the Western Isles Tourist Board, said the island areas needed separate, dedicated marketing and promotion.
"There is absolutely no common ground between the majority of areas faced with amalgamation," said Mr Mac-millan. "For instance, skiing has absolutely no relevance to the island communities, and outlying islands cannot be visited on a whim by those touring the Highlands."
He added that the proposals were totally contrary to other policies which have recognised the individual needs of the islands, through separate local government, enterprise companies and health boards.
Edinburgh Tourist Board chief executive Roger Carter has reacted equally angrily to the STB's proposals, which would amalgamate the city's board into one covering the whole of south-east Scotland. Other boards amalgamated into this one would include the Borders, Lothians and Forth Valley.
Dr Carter has written to Scotland's minister for tourism, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, saying the idea of reducing the number of ATBs to seven does not appear to be supported by anyone with experience of running a board.
"The discussions which I have had generally suggest that a practical number would be between 13 and 15, allowing Edinburgh and Scotland's other well-known destinations to retain their identity," wrote Dr Carter.
He added that the board had received great support for its view that the city should retain its own tourism body.
"Already the board is a substantial operation achieving significant economiesof scale and providinghigh levels of specialist expertise," he wrote.
The STB put forward its proposals in December 1992 and the Scottish Office has been carrying out a tourism review since July last year. An announcement is expected shortly from the Scottish Office.