In this blog BASC’s political and press officer in Scotland, Ross Ewing, explores the significance of assurances given by the Scottish Government to sporting businesses contending with coronavirus disruption.
After weeks of uncertainty and disruption, the Scottish Government finally confronted their failure to provide sporting businesses with much-needed coronavirus support.
In a meeting with BASC and the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG), the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing MSP, signalled that sporting businesses had been ‘inadvertently excluded’. In other words, it was not a conscious or pre-mediated decision.
Whether it was or wasn’t is not something to dwell on in this time of crisis. What matters now is that this unacceptable lack of support is addressed swiftly. The Cabinet Secretary assured BASC and SCSTG that sporting businesses will receive financial support. It is incumbent on the Cabinet Secretary to ensure that this is the case.
Fergus Ewing is veteran of the Scottish Parliament and has represented Inverness-shire since Holyrood’s inception in 1999. His level of understanding when it comes to rural issues exceeds and surpasses that of the majority of his parliamentary colleagues. Further, he has not been afraid to stick his head above the parapet in defence of the countryside in the past. This has earned him respect from a number or rural organisations including BASC.
However, it goes without saying that the SNP have had a tumultuous relationship with rural Scotland. Many view the party – whose parliamentarians were once confined to Scotland’s most rural constituencies – as overly urban-centric.
Some people have been reassured by Mr Ewing’s presence in cabinet, however, and it has been suggested that his custodianship of the rural economy and tourism brief is right and proper in lieu of his past experience and advocacy.
The economic challenges of Covid-19 have been indiscriminate and wide-ranging. In rural Scotland, where the economy is often most fragile, the impacts have been felt acutely.
Sporting businesses play a key role in keeping the rural economy going by bringing thousands of visitors to Scotland in the quieter Autumn and Winter months. As a result, many other rural businesses thrive throughout the year. This contribution is essential.
The announcement of details surrounding the Scottish Government’s ‘lifeline support for business’ will be a watershed moment for Fergus Ewing and the Scottish Government. It will be in this announcement that we will see what the Cabinet Secretary’s assurances are made of.
To that end, the Scottish Government should view the remedying of this situation as an opportunity. An opportunity to show Scotland’s rural communities that it is in touch with the unprecedented challenges they are facing. An opportunity to show Scotland’s rural communities that it cares about them and their livelihoods.
And crucially – an opportunity to make a real difference to rural Scotland.
The choice is clear. It is incumbent on the Scottish Government to do what is right and support sporting businesses.