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Scottish hospitality assesses impact of ‘No' vote

22 September 2014 by
Scottish hospitality assesses impact of ‘No' vote

Hospitality business operators in Scotland were still divided on what remaining part of the 300-year-old union will mean for the sector this week, despite last week's majority vote against independence in the country.

A referendum on 18 September resulted in a 55% vote against, with 45% of Scots eligible to vote in favour.

While the British Hospitality Association (BHA) welcomed the "clarity" of the result, William Macleod, executive director of the BHA Scotland cautioned that there were many issues that would require attention as arrangements are made to devolve greater powers to Scotland.

"Hospitality and tourism are vitally important to the Scottish economy with some 15% of the population working in the industry," Macleod said.

"The sector has consistently demonstrated resilience, adaptability and innovation, especially over the last five years or so and is showing clear signs of recovery. This recovery can be sustained if the economic and political conditions are in place to support this."

Beppo Buchanan-Smith, owner of the Isle Eriska hotel, and a leading voice among hospitality operators for the "No" campaign welcomed the news of the result, despite the fact that he had hoped for an even wider margin of victory.

"It is posted as a decision for a generation so it offers long term consistency and continuity and will I believe allow the tourism and hospitality sector in Scotland to return to growth. Investment can return and we can get back to selling Scotland as a destination to visitors rather than selling Scotland to our own people and electorate."

"Devolution, too, is on its way and with that will come challenges but most of all today we have spoken and the majority of Scots want to work within the United kingdom, attracting the best to work with us and the world to visit us. It is the new dawn for Scotland and it looks bright."

But Paddy Crerar, the chief executive of Crerar Hotels, and a prominent "Yes" voter, was disappointed by the outcome of the referendum and said that although he looked forward to Scotland now working in unity, he that he felt an opportunity had been missed.

He warned that the matter was far from closed, pointing to findings that the majority of people who voted "Yes" in the referendum were under 55.

"As for the future of the hospitality industry, it is the case that independent countries have a higher global profile than regions and that would have been ideal for Scotland given its recent game changers in terms of venues and its highlighted place on the world stage," he said.

"As a region of the UK we can still prosper in our business, although identity becomes less clear, but crucially we have lost the opportunity to influence the policy makers on the matters that concern our particular position as a region in the UK hospitality sector. I referred to the air passenger duty when I last spoke with your magazine which is a perfect example of a UK policy that negatively affects the regions outside Greater London - Scotland being the most obvious. Out hospitality industry would have been a powerhouse for an independent Scottish economy but on a UK level it is too far down the list to be a concern beyond lip service."

However Crerar said he was proud to have been part of something that had involved so much passion and brought the nation together in deciding its future. "As a father of young children my vote for ‘Yes' was very personal and it was for them but I can also say that as a CEO of a hotel group employing many hundreds of people my vote of ‘Yes' was with their future in mind also."

He added: "I hope and believe that Scotland will at some point become independent and until that time I for one will do all I can to ensure that our industry and our region of the UK can be all it can be."

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