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One week after inconclusive results from the Scottish elections, no single party has enough seats to form a majority government and it would also appear that a coalition is also unlikely, although the Greens may join with the SNP in certain matters mainly related to environmental issues. So that’s clear then…?

The likelihood is that Alex Salmond will become our new First Minister and will form a minority government. This takes us into uncharted waters and interesting times. Before devolution, the politics we recognised was based on two parties slugging it out for overall power and post-devolution we saw Labour and the Liberal Democrats ‘working’ together in coalition.

So what might a minority government led by the SNP mean for tourism? A look at the manifesto might give a clue to future direction but with no majority to support its policies, we are likely to witness the abiding political balancing act between pragmatism and ideology.

In its manifesto, the SNP says it will cut the post of Tourism Minister at cabinet level and that tourism would be taken into a new department of Finance and Sustainable Growth. Furthermore it would merge VisitScotland with the Enterprise network and at the same time transfer the creative industries budget from Scottish Enterprise to Creative Scotland (a new cultural development agency).

The other political parties who would have to vote on this, do not appear to be of the same mind although all have various ideas about how they would enhance government’s role in support of our industry. Given that there is this potential hiatus, there is a huge opportunity to lobby our politicians, although actually being able to influence them may be another matter altogether. But still, worth a try.

But coming back to the case for a Minister for Tourism. A quick search on Google suggests that almost all other countries in the world have such a creature, either as part of a shared portfolio, as in Scotland, or as a dedicated department, such as in Israel (a country with roughly the same population as Scotland).

Amazingly countries with tourism ministers include Afghanistan (yes, really!), Rwanda and Greenland. Even in a mixed portfolio, the industry is at least mentioned by name, an indication that its revenues are taken seriously. And surely that is the point, without such revenue generating departments, the vital spending departments such as health and education would struggle for survival.

So when it comes to forming a government and appointing a cabinet, we might expect to see tourism relegated to the lower ranks. However, we still have to see what comes forth.

Parties are always very good at producing manifestos, usually the work of ideological young party researchers who are yet to be faced with the more pragmatic element of staying in power.

What survives from any of the manifestos will be interesting. As one of Bill Clinton’s aides famously (or infamously) said: “The President has kept all the promises he intended to keep.”

But of course, that would never be said in Scotland!

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One week after inconclusive results from the Scottish elections, no single party has enough seats to form a majority government and it would also appear that a coalition is also unlikely, although the Greens may join with the SNP in certain matters mainly related to environmental issues. So that’s clear then…?
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