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Scottish Caravans & Motorhomes

Every issue features live-in road tests of all the latest models and reviews of parks throughout Scotland and the North of England by respected industry insiders – plus the latest news and what’s on guides. Whether deciding on which caravan or motorhome to buy, looking for the ideal park to visit or browsing for new gear to enhance the touring experience, Scottish Caravans & Motorhomes is the perfect companion for travels throughout Scotland and the North of England.

Opinion This is a levy

Opinion This is a levy too far Cameron McNeish is critical of a new call in the Scottish parliament to charge campervanners travelling to the Western Isles pictures CAmeron mCneish AN MSP hAS asked the Scottish government to consider introducing a levy for motorhomers visiting the Western Isles. The SNP’s Alasdair Allan suggested such a levy would help islanders better handle increased vehicle traffic, arguing that the number of holidaymakers travelling to the Outer Hebrides in motorhomes had ‘shot up.’ Mr Allan said the tourism was welcome, but the islands lacked ‘suitable sites’ and waste disposal points. ‘This is about recognising the pressures created on infrastructure by such a rapid growth in tourism and providing communities with a new source of funding that they can direct as they see fit,’ the MSP said. That’s all very well, but you can’t help but wonder if Scotland is the only country in the world that seeks to encourage tourists and then complains about them once they’re here? While many are praising marketing efforts like the North Coast 500 for bringing extra business to remote areas of Scotland, just as many appear to be whingeing about it, claiming that the narrow highland roads have become overcrowded; that there aren’t enough overnight facilities, like campsites; and that bed­and­breakfast owners dislike people staying only one night because they have to change the bedsheets daily. In his statement to the BBC, Mr Allan admitted the increase in tourism over the past two or three years, including campervanners and motorhomers, was essentially good for the local economy, but feared that this new­found popularity ‘has brought its own set of problems, and it is readily apparent that our infrastructure has not been able to keep up with Campervanners are made very welcome on Harris “Is Scotland the only country that seeks tourists, then complains about them?” demand.’ I suspect most of us who own campervans and motorhomes are well aware of the lack of infrastructure in Scotland – but why we should we be the ones who pay directly for such facilities? I don’t see any suggestions from politicians asking car­borne tourists for a levy to build more hotels or garages. And other than create an even bigger ferry levy on the size of your camper or motorhome, how does Mr Allan suggest we make this infrastructure contribution? Surely if a region is actively trying to gain economic benefit from tourism, it’s incumbent on that region to create the infrastructure to support it? Room on the boat It appears to me that Alastair Allan MSP has a personal gripe – one that I’ve heard from a number of islanders – and that is that motorhomes take up too much room on ferries and occasionally local people can’t get booked on the ferries they want. If that’s the case then surely we need more ferries making the crossings between Ullapool and Stornoway, Uig and Tarbert or Oban and Castlebay during the summer months. Or perhaps a certain amount of space should be reserved on the ferries for the islanders’ use? It’s perhaps a question to be laid at the door of Caledonian MacBrayne, the ferry operator. The other issue that Mr Allan is concerned about is a lack of campsites and waste disposal points. I would agree with him on the first point. I’m a regular visitor to Harris, which I’ll come back to in a minute, but there is a real need for more campsites on islands like Mull, Arran, Skye and the Western Isles. Indeed, a lack of campsites is one of the main issues of contention in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, where bylaws have been created on loch­sides to stop people wild camping, as I’ve mentioned here before. Rather than slap a levy on motorhomes travelling to the islands, what is urgently required is 92 Scottish Caravans & Motorhomes winter 2017

some government joined-up thinking and a longerterm strategy that makes campervanners and motorhomers want to continue to come to Scotland. I mentioned that I’m a regular visitor to Harris, and one of the reasons I like going there is that campervanners are made welcome. The West Harris Trust has signs on some very scenic laybys asking for a £5 voluntary donation, while the North Harris Trust has just spent a considerable amount of money providing a new building at Hushinish, for long a very popular wild camping spot among campervanners, with toilet and shower facilities. The toilets are free (again with a request for a small donation) and the showers cost a pound. And the Trust is building a small campsite with enough space and electric hook-ups for five motorhomes. It’s interesting that both of these areas were the subject of community buy-outs. If it’s possible for small communityrun trusts like these to provide infrastructure then surely those who are gaining financially from such tourism can contribute too? In the first column I wrote in this magazine, I gave figures that reckoned the leisure vehicle industry was worth around £6bn a year to the Scottish economy, and growing. The past year has demonstrated the increasing role that campervans and motorhomes have in the tourism industry Pitytoputanyoneoffseeingthelikesofthis Top: Cameron checks the lie of the land from his trusty Hyundai conversion today. And I would refute the suggestion that campervanners and motorhomers bring everything they need with them and don’t spend locally. We spend money on ferries, on fuel, on meals out, and in places like the new Harris Distillery and numerous craft shops. A motor- home holiday is not a cheap alternative. Fàilte oirbh uile! Rather than discourage these tourists with levies and increased charges, we should be encouraging them to continue visiting more remote areas like the Western Isles, just as the Scottish government has done with its Road Equivalent Tariff on the ferries. That was introduced partly to encourage tourism. Is Alasdair Allan now suggesting it’s been too successful? Other countries in the world have examined the campervan issue, and the excellent examples set in New Zealand, another small country rich in natural wonders, are worth noting. As well as more campsites, local councils should be imitating the ‘aire de camping car’ system that’s so popular in France. I recently stopped overnight at one such location in Freidrichschafen in Germany, where on-road parking was allowed and waste-disposal units and water were provided for a few Euros. If it works in other countries, I have no doubt such facilities can work here. It just needs a different mindset from our politicans and VisitScotland – a much more welcoming attitude than simply demonising a section of society and dumping an extra levy on them. winter 2017 Scottish Caravans & Motorhomes 93

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