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Golf (Economic Contribution)

Volume 607: debated on Wednesday 23 March 2016

1. If he will estimate the contribution of golf to the economy in Scotland in the last 12 months. (904200)

May I begin by expressing the solidarity of the people of Scotland with the people of Belgium at this difficult time? Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go to the families and friends of all those who were killed and, indeed, everyone caught up in yesterday’s horrific events.

Golf makes a huge contribution to Scotland’s economy. Independent analysis in 2013 showed that the game contributes more than £1 billion in revenues and supports some 20,000 jobs. There are almost 600 golf courses across the country, generating annual revenues of £582 million.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, and I very much share his sentiments of solidarity towards the people of Belgium at this very difficult time.

Given the success that my right hon. Friend talks about in relation to golf in Scotland, what steps is he taking to try to secure further investment in this very important industry for Scotland?

One new opportunity to support golf and young people in golf arose in last week’s Budget: the sugar tax element of the Budget will see investment in sport in schools in the wider UK. I hope the Scottish Government will follow through on that and use those funds to develop sport in schools, including golf—a very popular sport, as I have said. This year, we also have the opportunity to present Scotland’s golfing merits to the wider world during the British Open at Royal Troon. It will be a showcase for the world of Scotland’s golfing opportunities.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning my local golf course; I am the MP for Royal Troon, and we look forward to welcoming people in July.

Will the Secretary of State discuss with Front-Bench colleagues a regional strategy for smaller airports—at Prestwick, people fly in over Royal Troon—and, while the Chancellor is in a listening mood, will they consider a VAT reduction for rural tourism, which would help many constituencies across the UK?

I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss those issues further. I am also very interested in pursuing the proposed Ayrshire regional growth deal, which, in promoting tourism in that part of Scotland, will have golf at its heart.

May I add my contribution on this topic by saying that it was with pleasure, last week, that I saw the Secretary of State sharing a platform with the First Minister, who I am sure raised the topic we are discussing? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that is an example of the two Governments working together in the interests of the people of Scotland?

Mr Speaker, you will be pleased to hear that the First Minister and I met and shared a platform in St Andrews, which is of course the world home of golf. On sport, as on any matter, Scotland of course does best when Scotland’s two Governments work together.

This is the first opportunity in Parliament to put on the record our total revulsion at and condemnation of the terrorist atrocities in Brussels, as well as our solidarity with everybody affected. We join the Secretary of State for Scotland in that.

The promotion of the Ryder cup in Scotland was a huge achievement for the Scottish Government and the then First Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond). Today is the last sitting day of the Scottish Parliament. Given that he is standing down from Holyrood, may I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his remarkable tenure as an MSP and as First Minister, and pay tribute to all other MSPs from all parties who are retiring? Does the Secretary of State agree that there is much that can be built on following the success of the Ryder cup? How does he plan to contribute to that?

I am sure that that was a courteous tribute, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not object if I say that the first part of his question was way off the fairway.

Securing the Ryder cup to be held in Scotland was a significant event. I agree that the former First Minister of Scotland has made a remarkable contribution to Scottish politics, although the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) and I will probably differ on the detail of that. What the former First Minister and many MSPs who are standing down—I also pay tribute to them—have done, and what we all need to do, is promote Scotland together, because that is when we get the best results for Scotland.

I will try to remain on the fairway, Mr Speaker.

Tourism is one of Scotland’s most important industries, and golf and whisky are key drivers for people visiting the country. Does the Secretary of State welcome local initiatives better to promote iconic Scottish regions and locations, such as Speyside? What encouragement would he give to public and private sector partners in making the most of Scotland’s world-class potential as a tourism draw?

I am aware of the initiatives to promote Speyside, having recently visited the right hon. Gentleman’s picturesque constituency, and I wish them well. Such opportunities reach their full potential only with significant public and private sector partners playing a full part, and I look forward to hearing about progress from Speyside and other regions of Scotland that are making the most of that potential.