Scottish independence and the visitor

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
tourist buses

Will the tourist buses still be filled with those from south of the border?

Update: Scotland has voted no but comments from the Prime Miniister suggest that we could still have differential APD for example.

Today, Scotland may vote to become independent. What might this mean for our readers both north and south of the border? When counting has been completed, this story might be as useful as an out-of-date visa to the Holy Roman Empire or an airline ticket on British Caledonian – useless but,  just for a moment, let’s try and look what independence might mean in the cold light of day. Would there be border controls? If the relationship between the north and the Republic of Ireland is anything to go by, there may be soft controls and probably East Coast, First Transpennine and Cross Country would continue to provide services because it would be in neither government’s interest to do away with it. All that will happen is a re-negotiation of subsidies and some fares might alter. As for passports, I would imagine you might need one but the governments could agree on any photo-id so a driving licence might do. I cannot see visas being introduced but I can see that a deal as exists between Ireland and the UK to introduce a common visa whereas those from abroad can visit both sides of the border on the one visa could come about. In fact the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic is probably the best model we have of how tourism might work.

the Edinburgh Tattoo is aready international so there will be no effect there by independence

the Edinburgh Tattoo is aready international so there will be no effect if Scotland goes independent

The biggest change is likely to come in APD – Air Passenger Duty. If Scotland has a lower rate than England or vice versa then people will just hop to the other side of the border to take advantage of the fares. For those in Wales, the problem wouldn’t really arise as it would be too far and expensive to travel to Scotland to take advantage of it. For those in Northern Ireland, they already have a different regime. So from  an administrative and tax point of view there would be changes. But what will be the attitude of passengers? We will be more interested in whether things like National Trust passes still work in Scotland and vice-versa. Sykes Cottages have posed questions in a survey they did of English and Welsh adults on what concerns people might have to an independent Scotland.  Whilst 40% say they would have concerns in holidaying in Scotland that means that 60% don’t have qualms or are, at least undecided on whether this poses problems. Given that the survey took place a few months ago that figure may have altered in view of all the publicity that has been everywhere in the media. Will the ugly nature of recent days have made some people more concerned?

but will change will be tax like APD and VAT

but will change will be tax like APD and VAT

The impact of having a potentially different currency is the concern that affects about a third of all responders. That has been a talking point for months so how will a currency system work? Whatever is chosen, just like big Marks and Spencer stores take euros, you can imagine that business – being more pragmatic than governments – will find a way to function on whichever side of the border they are. After all, politicians are only transient – business has to go on for all our benefits. Interestingly, accordng to the survey, it is the north that is less concerned with the possibility of a different currency than any other region although you would have thought that they would be the most to feel the impact. Maybe they have already decided in their own minds to make “it” work whatever “it” turns out to be. In the survey results, one age group – those aged 18-24 – do give cause for concern because either this group, which will continue holidaying for another 60 years or so, seems to be most concerned about the issues raised  that might come about from Scottish independence. Is this because of genuine concerns or because they haven’t listened to many of the debates.

and this Sykes' rental cottage in Nairn will still see UK tenants

and this Sykes’ rental cottage in Nairn will still see UK tenants

Unlike the political polls where the number of don’t know’s is quite high, in the Sykes Cottages survey it is low, running at only about 5%. But that the vast majority  – over 60% – don’t have any concerns and that should be pleasing to the ears of tour operators, attractions, hotels and other accommodation providers because people will still continue to want to holiday in Scotland.  That just 2% cite other reasons for concern with independence also makes me think that few have thought the implications for visitor tourism through  as it is unlikely any research house would be able to come with a near complete list of potential issues that might cause concern to visitors like cross-border buses, trains and national park walks. The bus that goes from Berwick-upon-Tweed (the US media seems to have descended on masse into this town for their independence coverage) to Kelso will still run and I can’t believe that school children will need to show their passports at the border and probably we won’t either. Maybe the political model ahead will be a federal one where the four home nations (or three) will legislate on most issues relating to domestic issues as US, German and Australian states do. Westminster becomes an English parliament except where defence and foreign affairs and some tax issues will be decided in which case parliamentary representatives from all the countries can come together for those occasions. What we as visitors might like – differing rates of VAT and APD so that we can opt for the cheapest will not play well for the economies of any country in the long run.  That has been proven in the case of Northern Ireland where they must compete with the South and that’s why they have lower APD rates. Border controls may sound the death-knell for many domestic airline routes because it could make queues longer. In which case visitors will opt for trains so that needn’t be a bad thing either. More and more it seems to me that all politicians have been caught napping and have no plans for what happens to the tourism industry. Whatever the outcome today, you get the feeling that the way our political system works is going to have to alter.

Whatever happens, we tourists will still want holidays! cartoon © Dan Sperrin

Whatever happens, we tourists will still want holidays! cartoon © Dan Sperrin

And that is even if Scotland votes to remain part of the UK for they have started something that needs resolution. English anxieties have been raised about giving Scotland too much, many Welsh want parity with whatever Scotland negotiates and Scotland has been promised – for domestic issues – almost as much as they could gain with independence. But will all this affect us as tourists and travellers? How would a company like Sykes Cottages react to having rental cottages  stradling borders? Answer, it does and manages to operate successfully so they will only face problems conjured by politicians not by business reasons. And we travellers will do the same. Cope and concentrate on the more important things – enjoying our holidays!

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