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Letters / Looking forward to the consultation

Thank you so much for your article on ‘STRATEGIC tourism infrastructure development plan. Timely, with tourism back with a boom this summer.

Tourism infrastructure plan in the works

I could try to keep this brief, but far too important for that. We may miss the devils in the details.

Strategic planning is complex as many factors should rightly be taken into consideration and numerous agendas and interests balanced.  However strategic solutions can often be found in simplicity. And very recent old ground has to be re-excavated, lest tourism follow housing and transport issues down over-crowded and non-clarifying, non-delivery dead ends!

SIC economic development officer Tommy Coutts knows he doesn’t need to use the word ‘strategic’ to give anything status or credence or force a costly consultancy, where none may be required. Unless he feels the public need to hear ‘the word’!

Strategic means it has purpose and looks across all the dominant factors, trends and traits, essential to a proper sustainable strategy is giving equally weighting to the social and environmental factors and outcomes, not just the economics/ cash as most business/industry strategic approaches have historically done.

Any open, highly creative, very widely participative strategic plan development process, easily accessible to all, not just ‘insiders’ or self-proclaimed experts, at times of the day or evening to suits all, not just council staff or private consultants time (Mon- Fri 9-4), perhaps involving Planning Action Scotland or other community participation experts, would be, and produce, a good strategic plan.

The big issues then: a strategic plan to work for

  • an industry as if everyone in it locally mattered, not just the profit-takers
  • rural, eco (rarely mentioned), ‘extreme’ tourism/visitor economy development
  • public transport first approach  – buses, car sharers, car clubs, reducing non-car ferry sea journeys internally and externally – Room for private ferry operators specifically for tourists to free up the public ferry service for essential users. ‘Hot tattie’ at the moment
  • Invite Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales re accommodation and other construction/engineering.

Plan development 

Immediately learn the lessons from the £400,000 consultation on the Knab Master ‘Blaster’ Plan, where for example the pen ink couldn’t write on the shiny paper consultation response forms. I kid you not! So, no shiny paper and pencils please.

Giving something a powerful, authoritative, if not authoritarian, name. ‘Master’ doesn’t make it right! Never did, never will.

Your article on recent external audit of SIC, re use of, funding and management of consultants is timely and Mr Coutts should be aware about it! Keep doing the same things, you’ll keep making the same mistakes.

So Knab Master ‘Blaster’ Plan is a living breathing case in point: wrong plan, wrong place at wrong time. Insisting on meeting one fallacious priority for a site, based on one or two senior service manages’ views and taking no account whatsoever of their own, unpublished, very recent (strategic?) housing and related transport consultations.

Beware the ‘big’ consultancies bearing gifts. (POSH consultancies recently produced P-rofessional, O-rganised, S-subservient to a H-ousing first and foremost plan. Didn’t look at the bigger Lerwick, Bressay, Shetland picture and other strategic issues.

Beware the local too – insider trading, lack of ‘global’ experience.

  1. Start with a blank canvas and ask us what should a strategic tourism industry plan look like and contain.
  2. So an open, transparent, accessible plain English please), inclusive and most importantly, an openly and diversely participatory and challenging  process, of the existing industry and providers with possibly old or current not working well enough thinking.
  3. Sane, practical, long-term, sustainable – economically, socially and environmentally – multi-beneficial (not just our handful of multi-property-owning millionaires) and ‘globally/locally’ strategic goals.
  4. Goals which will and must be zero-carbon or negative CO2 (SIC signed climate emergency declaration). Tourist eco-tax? If they can afford to get here, they can afford £10-£20 dedicated for off-set work (See Bhutan).
  5. A lot more money into local pockets (not absentee landlords and companies) through well-paid hospitality jobs – the compete opposite of what we generally have now, with worst offender being cruise ship visitors, who are very wealthy ( see cruise prices) and spend very little here (place is closed on Sundays!) and what they do spend goes back to cruise ship companies, or its principle south-based bus trip contractors, where the profits go!
  6. Halt bed-night robbing via camper vans from south or indeed those locally rented!

So re tourism strategy, given no consultation as yet announced by Mr Coutts, get PAS or other community economic consultant in on the act to give the once over at least at process, if not content.

As a former tourist related shop owner and more recently worked in the hospitality industry, with a hope to again soon, I look forward to the consultations.

James J  Paton
Lerwick