THE tourism industry provides 10 per cent of Scotland’s workforce and 5% of the economy. But Stephen Leckie, chief executive of the Crieff Hydro hotel group, does not believe politicians treat the industry with the respect it deserves.

Speaking just minutes after Mr Hammond delivered his Budget speech, Mr Leckie expressed disappointment that action was not taken to cut VAT (valued added tax)

for the tourism and hospitality sector.

With VAT remaining at

20% – the second highest in Europe – he said the tax undermines Scotland’s attractiveness as a visitor destination.

“We’re still campaigning for a reduction,” said Mr Leckie, whose family have run Crieff Hydro for five generations. “He (Hammond) will have to show his hand when the inquiry into the impact of VAT in Ireland is known this week.”

As chairman of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Mr Leckie has been vocal in recent months and years about the increasing cost of doing business faced by tourism and hospitality operators.

He welcomed the decision to again freeze duty on spirits, beer and cider and also fuel duty. And he praised the Scottish Government’s announcement last week that rises in business rates would be capped at 12.5% until 2022 (separate to yesterday’s Budget cuts to business rates for England).

But wage costs remain a big burden to a company that employs around 1,000 staff across six hotels, especially after the further rise to the National Living Wage announced yesterday.

Mr Leckie said it remains disappointing that there is “no offset” for the many hotels in Scotland that provide food and accommodation for their “live in” staff. The Crieff Hydro group employs some 150 employees on a live-in basis.

“The cost of doing business in Crieff has grown by virtually £250,000 year on year, and we are feeling that,” he said.

“We want to reinvest more back into the character of buildings and training and people… [but] it makes it so difficult when you have to pay £250,000 extra from Crieff alone to Perth & Kinross Council for business rates.”