There is barely a person, family or business across Scotland that has not felt the acute impacts of living through the pandemic.
In my view, our beloved tourism and hospitality sector has felt the impacts more than most.
Nobody wants the current restrictions in place for a moment longer than necessary and I am acutely aware the sector will need ongoing support to ensure it survives the rest of 2021.
Last week Finance Secretary Kate Forbes outlined a progressive budget for getting the country through the remainder of the pandemic including a funding boost for tourism.
We’ve increased funding for tourism by almost 9% to £55 million, in recognition that we must address and implement the Tourism Recovery Taskforce recommendations, continue the road to recovery and undo the disproportionate damage that has been caused by Covid-19 to tourism jobs and businesses.
I continue to work with partners, stakeholders and the tourism ministers of the other three UK nations to press the UK Treasury to step up their support.
We’ve doubled the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) to more than £6 million. RTIF supports tourism in our rural communities by boosting visitor facilities such as car parks and toilets, and tackling some of the visitor management issues that were seen across Scotland last summer.
It comes on top of a £104 million package of support announced in December, covering almost every part of our tourism economy from inbound tour operators to self-catering accommodation to ski centres.
With the introduction of stricter border control measures, the acceleration of the vaccine roll out, and if we all keep following the FACTS, there is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel, and we will do all that we can to ensure Scotland’s warm welcome is waiting once again.
Fergus Ewing is the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Member of the Scottish Parliament for Inverness and Nairn.