Maureens Matters - The reality is...

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Across the North-east we are all familiar with Scotland’s stunning natural scenery, unrivalled fresh food and drink and breathtaking attractions.

Along with our nation’s vibrant arts, music, cultural and festival scene as well as the array of outdoor activities from golf to skiing, it is of no surprise to me that our tourism sector continues to prosper.

Indeed, in the last year alone the number of tourists visiting Scotland has increased by almost 10% to 2.4million.

However, the importance and strength of this industry is not measured on the number of visitors alone, but from the economic impact too.

On this front, the news is fantastic.

A 10% increase in visitors has been bettered by a 20% boost in visitor spending, with our economy benefitting to the tune £1.7bn.

These are spectacular figures which are more than likely to rise further given that this year, the year of Homecoming Scotland, our nation plays host to both the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games.

Yet, there is no room for complacency and more can be done to ensure the industry continues to excel beyond the £2.3bn which Barclays has estimated tourism will be worth to Scotland by 2017.

One key area where the industry would benefit would be with the abolition of Air-Passenger Duty.

It is estimated that this tax on tourism has resulted in the loss of two million passengers to Scotland due to the impact which it has on airline operating costs, and only the Scottish Government has committed to abolishing it.

Unfortunately, the powers to do so currently remain reserved to Westminster and David Cameron has apparently ruled out devolving these to the Scottish Parliament.

The reality is that the only way to ensure control over Air Passenger Duty is to vote Yes in September.