THE rate of reopening the Scottish islands’ tourism industry in comparison to the mainland is a critical factor in the survival of hundreds of businesses from Arran to Orkney.

Tourism leaders said that a further curb on visitors that is “out of kilter” with the rest of the country would be devastating to the islands’ economy, which of course relies on tourism as a main industry.

The lack of an announcement relating to an opening date for tourism businesses on the islands had the effect of “triggering a wave of cancellations from visitors seeking certainty who have reluctantly opted for alternative holidays on the Scottish mainland”.

Businesses have been trying, in correspondence with the Scottish Government, to pin down a date to pencil in. The response was there is “no definitive timescale or specific dates”.

Throughout the pandemic, business leaders repeatedly called for even provisional dates to help planning.

READ MORE: North Coast 500 sets out reopening plans for tourists

The argument is that if the date gets put back, firms can at least offer a likely time with the option to amend or cancel if dictated by circumstance, which staycationers will understand.

Rob McKinnon, chief executive of Outer Hebrides Tourism, highlighted the position.

He said: “The Government has commenced a consultation to gather opinions on alternative proposals that would allow islanders to have more freedom internally, but critically would ban non-essential travel between the mainland and the islands. As well as tourism, this has been met with dismay by many islanders who are desperate to be reunited with relatives on the mainland ... “

HeraldScotland: Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides. Picture: Getty ImagesIsle of Harris, Outer Hebrides. Picture: Getty Images

Tourism businesses from across the islands agreed to collectively “demand a level playing field from the Scottish Government on arrangements to end Scotland’s lockdown”, he said, adding: “The approach taken has already caused unnecessary confusion and millions of pounds of damage. By acting quickly the Government can stop the situation becoming even worse.”

Other sectors are also seeking greater clarity, writes Deputy Business Editor Scott Wright in his column this week: “No dates have been set for the resumption of the live music industry, or the reopening of nightclubs, for example, both of which are key drivers of the night-time economy.

“Also in the dark when it comes to reopening are various elements of the tourism industry, including the Scottish sailing charters and tours sector.”

The devastating impact that Brexit is having on UK exports was examined by Business Editor Ian McConnell in his Friday Called to Account column.

Changes in imports and exports, January 2021 v December 2020

Mr McConnell writes: “As dismal weeks have racked up for UK exporters struggling with the new, Conservative Government-delivered difficulties and costs of getting goods to European Union customers, surely the sad inevitability of permanent loss of trade must have dawned on Brexit damage deniers.”

In Employment Focus this week, Business Correspondent Kristy Dorsey highlights a recruitment franchise model that has helped one firm “increase productivity by harnessing the entrepreneurialism of its recruiters”.

A new twist came in the story of the £145m bid for Edinburgh’s Nucleus Financial. Business Correspondent Mark Williamson updates that “James Hay has decided to make a takeover offer” which would not require support of a majority of shareholders.