Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Oban top and Fort William high street.
Please consider. You might need to put your brain in a cool cloth before reading this.
You are a small business owner in a country town. Because you pay business rates you are being asked to vote for a scheme which will help to build tourism in your area. Your business is not related to tourism. You may be a business developing websites for clients, (or you are a local farmer selling cheese, or a crafts jeweller selling the products you make at home to an online market, or you have a business selling things on ebay). For the scheme to go ahead. 25% of business people in the area must take part in the vote and 50% of those voting have to vote Yes for the scheme to pass. If Yes, then there are a series of local projects each with varying costs which can be selected for development
If the scheme passes then you as a small business will have to pay a contribution to the scheme, (by law). Maybe £200 or up to £5000 perhaps, it depends upon the scheme costs. You will have NO option to pull out or not pay up. It will be as if £200 or up to £5,000 has been added to your business rates.
Remember that your business does not have anything at all to do with tourism although other businesses are connected to tourism.
Are you going to vote Yes to this scheme? There will be no benefit to you in your view, but a definite cost (not pence)
If 80% of the businesses in the area do not see themselves as being primarily dependent upon tourism is this scheme going to get the go-ahead?
If you are the owner of an hotel, a B and B or a self catering unit, or a tourist attraction, or a restaurant are you going to vote Yes to the scheme. Will the scheme get a Yes from 50% of those voting?
If 80% of the businesses in an area are definitely tourism related, will this scheme get the go ahead?
This is a summary of a scheme called a BID (business improvement district). Very successful scheme, originating in the USA and going around the whole country now.
If the scheme gets a Yes vote, then there will be several major projects to pick from all designed to improve tourism in an area such as Lochaber. This includes the big population of Fort William which is mostly light industrial, building and such like, and Glencoe a tiny population, which is mostly tourism based.
This is being debated now in Lochaber. Oban has voted yes already.
I would love the scheme to go ahead and be voted a yes. I can see how it gets a Yes vote in Oban which is dominated by the tourism business. I'm not so sure about Fort William voting yes. It does not see itself as a Tourism-centric place. The look of the town is witness to that. Glencoe is tourism-centric no doubt.
I have the feeling that it may get a no from Fort William. but luckily, it could be re-constituted as a Glencoe and Ballachulish scheme and this would almost certainly get a Yes for local projects.
If this does happen then it is the surrounding areas with no clout at all, such as Ardnamurchan or Appin which will be left out. They can do tiny schemes of their own of course. I feel bad for them.
Let's hope I'm wrong and it will go ahead for Lochaber.
There is a widespread complaint that many local tourism related businesses pay nothing towards the promotion of Scotland to tourists. I agree with that. We are not members of VisitScotland, which does the national promotion, and does an excellent job in terms of advertising and pr, but is clumsy and heavy-handed with its members. So we put our annual contribution of over £100 to the local promotion body, DiscoverGlencoe. This is well worthwhile, and has an excellent website. Ours is a kind of charity contribution. We have had very few enquiries from it, but that is because we get quite full early in the year and we lie a little outside the Glencoe area. It certainly helps people know and be attracted to the Glencoe area.
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