Motion: Lerwick’s Waterfront, One of Scotland’s Best Places

I was pleased to see Lerwick’s continued regeneration recognised in this national competition. You can vote for Lerwick waterfront- or the others on the shortlist!- at http://www.rtpi.org.uk/scotlandsbestplaces .

Motion Number: S4M-09550
Lodged By: Jean Urquhart
Date Lodged: 31/03/2014

Title: Lerwick’s Waterfront, One of Scotland’s Best Places

Motion Text:
That the Parliament welcomes the shortlisting of Lerwick’s waterfront as one of Scotland’s Best Places by the Royal Town Planning Institute; notes that the waterfront will compete against what it considers iconic vistas such as the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and Loch Lomond for the prize; understands that the shortlist of 10 places was chosen from 55 public nominations; believes that the establishment of the Mareel cinema, music and arts complex on the waterfront, which also houses the Shetland Islands Council headquarters, the Shetland Amenity Trust and the Shetland Museum and Archives, has contributed significantly to the waterfront’s vibrancy; understands that the public vote to choose the top three places is open until June and can be accessed online at rtpi.org.uk/scotlandsbestplaces , and hopes that the competition sparks interest, debate and enthusiasm about the country’s natural and built environments.

Motion: The Big Hospitality Conversation

Motion S4M-05745: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 27/02/2013

The Big Hospitality Conversation
That the Parliament welcomes the Big Hospitality Conversation summit, hosted by the British Hospitality Association and Springboard, which provides a forum for industry practitioners to meet young people interested in working in the hospitality industry; understands that, in Scotland, the hospitality industry directly employs 220,000 people, which is 9% of all employment; believes that the hospitality industry continues to offer great career opportunities for young people, and recognises what it sees as the determination of the sector to create pathways to work by increasing the number of apprenticeships available.

Motion: National Geographic Recognition of Fair Isle

National Geographic Recognition of Fair Isle
That the Parliament notes the inclusion of Fair Isle, the most southerly island in the Shetland Islands archipelago, in the National Geographic’s Top Ten Islands in its publication, The 10 Best of Everything; understands that Fair Isle is described as a “wild and wonderful place” home to “hundreds of thousands of birds”; considers the inhabitants of Fair Isle, who it considers work hard to maintain the island’s community and to welcome visitors, also to be worthy of recognition; further considers Fair Isle to be of vital natural and scientific importance, particularly with regards to ornithology, and welcomes the international recognition for what it considers one of Scotland’s most geographically isolated and beautiful islands.

Press Release: Local MSP Reflects on Latest Trip to Shetland (July 26th)

Jean Urquhart MSP was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Shetland during the parliamentary recess and to meet up with old and new friends alike.

The list MSP was in Shetland for a week, and met with various local businesses and organisations to discuss their issues and hear views on the independence referendum. Jean was accompanied by SNP MEP Ian Hudghton for two days, with whom she held a joint surgery and conducted interviews with local press.

As well as meeting representatives from the agricultural, aquaculture, fisheries and gas industries to discuss the work the Scottish Government is undertaking in their respective sectors, Jean had an opportunity to discuss her past business experience with the Shetland Tourism Association and Shetland Federation of Small Businesses. Jean also met with members of Shetland Island Council and attended a meeting of the SNP branch in Shetland.

Commenting on her trip, Jean said:

“I am always pleased to visit Shetland and gain more knowledge about the islands. Shetland’s positive contribution to both the Scottish economy and to Scottish society is one that I am acutely aware of, and continually promote within the Parliament.

“It was good this time to have the chance to catch up with folk that I met as a candidate in Shetland at the last election, as well as to hear more detail on how the Scottish Government can assist Shetland and its key industries.

“The SNP is committed to every corner of Scotland, and it is vital that we continue to listen to all communities and respond accordingly.”

Jean will be returning to Shetland at the end of August and hopes to spend time visiting primary and secondary schools in her role as a member of the Education & Culture Committee- perfectly timed to enjoy the Screen and Book Festival at the end of the week before parliament reconvenes.

Press Release: Highlands and Islands MSP Welcomes Birth of Puffin Chick (June 19th)

Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart today hailed the birth of a puffin chick live on camera at RPSB Sumburgh Head Reserve for highlighting the diversity of Shetland’s wildlife.

The new chick hatched at 15:36pm on Tuesday 12th June, five and a half hours after a hole appeared in the egg. During this time, the imminent birth of the puffin chick was picked up on Twitter, resulting in 5,000 people worldwide tuning into “Puffincam”,  part of the ‘Date With Nature’ project ran between RSPB Scotland and Promote Shetland, to watch.

Commenting on the publicity given to the birth, Jean Urquhart said:

“The interactive approach taken by RSPB Scotland and Promote Shetland to promoting Shetland’s wildlife across the world is very welcome. By broadcasting the birth of the puffin chick online and utilising social media, a global audience was able to appreciate the variety of wildlife that thrives on the Shetland Islands.

“Hopefully, projects such as Puffincam and Cliffcam, which provides views of the other seabird colonies present on the Shetland Islands such as fulmars and guillemots, will encourage even more visitors to one of Scotland’s most unique visitor destinations.”

Speech: Travel and Tourism (June 21st)

I declare an interest as someone with a great many years’ experience in the tourism and hospitality industry in the Highlands. I pay tribute to those who have spoken before me, who have highlighted a number of Scotland‟s attractions, taking us on a kind of verbal tour around the country.

Tourism is hugely important to Scotland as a whole, and comparatively it plays an even greater part in the mixed economy of the Highlands and Islands. That is a part of Scotland with natural beauty and an incredible landscape, which I am sure will feature strongly in the special promotion of the year of natural Scotland, next year.

Mary Scanlon has left the chamber, but I must take issue with some of the things that she said about the Sutherland way. We have to be respectful of the environment that we have in Scotland. We have to be smart about recognising the areas that need to have cafes or facilities, but we also have to recognise the special, wild nature of the land that we have. There are three identified geoparks in Scotland, and they are all in the Highlands and Islands. All of them make specific requests in terms of relevant development. The idea that the north-west Sutherland way should have a string of facilities along it makes my—well, I will say simply that that is wild Scotland.

Scotland attracts visitors from across the world and, in the past couple of years, a growing number from across the United Kingdom. Those visitors help to maintain 25,000 jobs across 3,000 businesses in my region and bring £1.2 billion every year from the region into the economy, and it is the importance of the economy that we are talking about.

By talking about Glasgow attracting conferences, Hanzala Malik reminded me that, on 9 September 1997, which was only two days before the extraordinary vote for devolution, Glasgow hosted the annual congress of the American travel trade, with several thousand delegates. The keynote speaker was Mrs Thatcher, who took the time on “Newsnight” to tell Scots that they should vote no the following Thursday. However, we are grateful that Glasgow has the facilities to take that size of conference.

Scotland is famous for its hospitality and its friendly people. To combat some of Helen Eadie’s comments, I should say that our reputation is deserved. There may be instances such as those that she talked about, but Scotland will never be perfect in everybody’s eyes. It is too easy for someone to go out and find a place that they do not like, but they do not know that, the night before, other people have had a really good time there. The spit-and-sawdust pub can offer up as great a night‟s entertainment for some people as a five-star hotel can do for a different clientele, offering a different service. We have to be careful about how we decide on these matters. We also have to be helpful. Do we want to hammer a business that is probably suffering really badly? It, too, plays a part in the economy and needs help rather than poor recognition.

That people recognise our hospitality and the friendliness of our people is evidenced by the extraordinarily high levels of repeat business that we achieve in Scotland generally and in the Highlands and Islands in particular. The figures are there for everyone to see. Familiar faces of people who have become addicted to holidays here appear regularly. That is still a factor of our industry. I have been in the hotel trade so long that I know the grandchildren of folk who stayed many years before. That is the legacy that we can and should build on. It is ironic, in some ways, that the industry should be sustained by such levels of repeat visits, given that employment opportunities in the industry often seem to be short-term and seasonal.

There have been many changes over the years and the recent festivals that the Highlands and Islands play host to are amazing. RockNess, Loopallu and the Insider festival that was held last weekend and was attended by 1,000 people, who stayed for three or four days, might seem like small beer compared with festivals such as T in the Park, but they are right for that part of Scotland and they are due recognition.

Anyone who has attended some of the smaller book festivals will know that they are hugely personal affairs, and contribute hugely to the economy. More and more are being organised outside what we choose to call the peak holiday period.

Although “Brave”, the now-released Pixar animation, is clearly getting global attention, I would like to thank members who recently supported my motion on the Hansel of Film, which came from Shetland and takes the story of Shetland and small film-makers around the United Kingdom. It is perhaps not the same in terms of marketing, but it is just as important and such projects often capture the imagination of visitors when they come here.

Tourism is an industry that does not stand alone. Like steel making and shipbuilding, it depends on all other sectors in order to flourish. Local authorities have much to contribute by keeping the infrastructure and public facilities open and in good order. The education of our children, especially in music and language, has an enormous role to play. Crofting and fishing are among our main attractions and we should never forget that folk on holiday love to watch folk at work.

Motion:

That the Parliament recognises the achievements of tourism businesses across Scotland in achieving a 14% increase in overnight visitor revenues in 2011; welcomes the new tourism strategy prepared by the industry, for the industry, which focuses on the importance of industry leadership, the quality that visitors encounter across their whole journey in Scotland and using Scotland’s assets to create the experiences that visitors are looking for; commends the efforts of the industry-led Tourism Leadership Group in developing the strategy and recognises the important role to be played by relevant agencies and non-departmental public bodies in supporting the industry’s strategy; renews calls on the UK Government to play its part by devolving air passenger duty and to consider a reduction of VAT rates for the sector; recognises the enormous opportunity for tourism in Scotland presented by The Winning Years and the Disney/Pixar film, Brave, in particular; congratulates Glasgow on its success in winning several additional conferences with the support of the Conference Bid Fund announced in March 2012, and encourages other destinations in Scotland to use the fund to win further business for Scotland.