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Scottish Parliament Speech: Tourism (March 2010)

See this speech in context on They Work For You.

We are discounting our enthusiasts in Scotland. Some weeks ago, I had a members' business debate on the Scottish railway museum at Bo'ness. Members who know the place will appreciate the amount of money that has gone into regenerating that area, piloted by the railway enthusiasts of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society.

Early in April, they will open their line as far as the Edinburgh to Glasgow line at Manuel junction. However, we must see that against the past, in which lines such as the whisky railway from Dufftown to Aviemore were ripped up.

The Swiss would have transformed such lines into major tourist attractions. One could almost say that the little diesel rail cars that trundle round the Highlands are collectively probably no larger than one Swiss narrow-gauge express train on the Rhätische railway, carrying the glacial express tourists through their part of the Alps. That has been voted minor in comparison with the joys of the west Highland railway, when it is possible to see beyond the forests that have grown up around the line, which make travelling from Craigendoran to Mallaig at the height of summer rather like going through a continuous green tunnel - it is surely time for some investment in chainsaws.

We have transport relics from the past that have proved themselves far more effective than many of our expensive investments of today. Members should think of the Waverley steamer, which was pronounced ready for the scrapyard at 23 years but is still running and almost as old as I am. They should think of the way in which the area around Abbotsford, which Jeremy Purvis mentioned, will be reanimated not only by the investment in Sir Walter Scott's great house but by the opening of the Waverley line back to the Borders. Why, in the concept of a revitalised area around Melrose has one of the freaks of Scottish planning added to the area's repertoire - the Eildons and the abbey - the crematorium? Did anyone work through a study of what is needed in a particular tourist magnet and come up with that?

Lewis Macdonald has been seen prancing through the waves of the blue lagoon in Iceland, which is the colour of Horlicks and smells of rotten eggs but, as he will agree, is a thoroughly enjoyable place to be. If the Icelanders can produce a triumph out of such conditions, of what are we not capable?

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