John’s Speech on Inclusive Tourism

Yesterday John spoke in the Scottish Parliament’s debate on Inclusive Tourism; you can read John’s speech below.

John Finnie:

“I align myself with almost all of Mr Gray’s comments—with the exception of what he said about his constituency being the finest. I align myself with what he said about the work of Leuchie house—from which Ms Mairi O’Keefe is, I think, with us in the gallery. I have a constituent—probably at least one—who is eternally grateful for the support that is given there.

It is very good that we talk about disabilities. I am conscious that the word “mainstreaming” is used a lot. I commend the mainstreaming approach and do not think that such things are about a named individual or a department: we are all responsible.

That does not mean that even new builds or new initiatives are without their challenges. It is important that technologies, procedures, standards all round and our expectations improve. We have heard about practices from a number of colleagues. I hope that, in years to come, we will not hear that people who live on the outside of a city have never been in the city centre, or that people have never seen the countryside. Equality impact assessments will underpin that, but challenges remain in that respect. Equality impact assessments are routinely done, but are, sadly, often box-ticking exercises. I favour a rights-based approach to how we do all business, including tourism. The point of reference on this occasion is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 9 of that convention requires of countries

“the identification and elimination of obstacles”.

Health and safety and risk assessment have an important role in doing that. As we have heard, not all barriers are physical. Many barriers, in particular in respect of mental health, are attitudinal.

Article 9 goes on to say that it should be ensured that persons with disabilities can access their environment. In that regard, transport is terribly important. Regardless of whether we are able-bodied, if a lift at a ferry terminal is not working, if there are limitations to bus travel or if taxi travel proves to be challenging, it affects us all, although the effects are compounded for those with disabilities.

Another issue is inspection, repair and replacement regimes. There is danger in that, in recent years, the fabric of many of our communities has not been maintained. The public facilities and services that we all share are also important resources for tourists. At the weekend, the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland expressed concerns to me about street furniture and road signage not being removed. We need to be alert to even the mundane things that can affect people.

The benefit of communications technology in information sharing has been mentioned. I align myself with Tavish Scott’s comments. It is all very well for members sitting here in the chamber, where we can get a 4G signal, but that is not the case everywhere. We also need more multilingual signage and we need to ensure that people with hearing and visual impairments are catered for.

There is good news. The national collections provide free access to the public. Free access is positive—it allows participation of people who are on low incomes, among whom women, disabled people and some ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented.

On social tourism, access to breaks that most of us take for granted has been mentioned. In the previous session, I was a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee, which reported on loneliness and isolation. We went to the island of Islay in my constituency, and to Easterhouse, where there are real challenges. I commend the work that NHS Highland is doing, along with the Inverness Courier and Drakies primary school, to encourage people to mix intergenerationally. I am sure that similar work is taking place across the country.

A lot of good things are happening, and I know that the Scottish Government consultation on its “Draft Delivery Plan 2016-2020” picks up on the UNCPRD’s rights references. I will pick out a few of those references. Commitment 6 says:

“A new help guide aimed at boosting accessible design will be published”.

Design is everything.

There are challenges—indeed, we have heard some people talk about the challenges of retrofitting, so we need to get it right from the outset. That commitment was connected to the legacy for the 2016 year of innovation, architecture and design.

Commitment 7 is to provide

“A new help guide to assist tourism businesses”

with information technology, as well as social media, which is important.

Under commitment 10, we see that

“Creative Scotland is undertaking a wideranging review of equalities, diversity and inclusion in the arts, screen and creative industries.”

I hope that that can be reflected in public funding going to promotion of diversity in the arts. I would certainly make public financial support conditional on that.

A number of members have mentioned Euan’s Guide. Its great attraction is that, rather than politicians pontificating, Euan, who is helped by his sister, is writing as someone with lived experience of the issues. Euan, who is from Leith, has done commendable work. I hope that his workload is diminishing.

The VisitScotland initiative must be appreciated. Members have talked about the benefits of the concessionary bus scheme. That has been a tremendous boost, particularly in allowing social mobility for the older generation. The economic benefits are important, too. I must say that I am not as drawn to the economic benefits as I am to the social and health—physical and mental wellbeing—benefits. I understand that for someone who is making important decisions about whether to heat their home or put food on the table, the last thing on their mind will be whether to take a holiday, let alone anything fancier than a trip to the city centre. If we want to improve our communities, we must enable such schemes, because there is no doubt that all the problems are reflected in lower life expectancy.

I am going to keep on going until you tell me otherwise, Presiding Officer.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: 

“Do not take it as a given—you have another half minute at the most.”

John Finnie MSP:

“Okey-dokey. Thank you.

The Scottish Greens will support Tavish Scott’s amendment tonight. The northern isles have geographic challenges, which does not mean that tourists should not go there. The challenges should be celebrated and tourism to the isles should be supported. Mr Scott said that it is an equity issue, and I agree.

Respitality is important. Carer centres have an important role to play in signposting people to services and assisting with benefits.

A lot of the issue is about structures and facilities, and a lot of it is about information. It is also about inclusion, so I commend the role of access panels in improving the lot not just of locals, but of visitors to their areas. Fundamentally, this is about changed attitudes, so I welcome improvements in that regard, although there is a way to go. However, I do not sense any complacency. We can have a more equitable future. As the cabinet secretary said, that will require shared endeavour.”