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Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 25 November 2009

7. What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the effect on the tourism industry in Scotland of proposed changes to the furnished holiday lettings rules. (300130)

The Minister will be aware that many groups, including the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers and the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, have raised concern about the impact of the proposed abolition of furnished holiday letting relief. Alternative solutions have been proposed that would be tax-neutral and support the industry. Will she urge the Treasury to look again at this matter to avoid serious damage to the economy in many areas of rural Scotland, including mine?

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the current rules were understood not to comply with EU law, nor were they fair to other residential landlords. It is also likely that if we had kept the rules as they stood, it would have had a negative impact on tourism, both in Scotland and the UK. There are only 60,000 individuals in the UK claiming this benefit, but there were 15 million overnight tourist visits in Scotland last year, so we consider that the change will not have any major impact on tourism.

The biggest barrier to tourists visiting holiday homes in Scotland is the lack of a proper transport infrastructure. Will my hon. Friend join the Scottish trade unions and business leaders in calling on the SNP Administration at Holyrood to reverse the decision to cancel the Glasgow airport rail link?

As my hon. Friend might suspect, there is only one Glasgow MP who does not support the rail link to the airport, the creation of 1,300 jobs or the ambitions of the city for the future. I deeply regret the decision and I hope that it will now be reconsidered.