PADDY Crerar, who has sold the hotel group he founded in 2006 in a deal announced last week, is one of those people who not only understands his industry inside out but also sees the bigger picture.

He has in recent times made his voice heard on crucial subjects such as the remote and rural housing crisis, and Brexit.

On the former issue, he last year urged action to fix a “crisis on affordable housing” in remote and rural areas in Scotland such as those in which some of Crerar Hotel Group’s properties are located.

Meanwhile, on the Brexit front, he declared in February last year that the UK had “been placed in an impossible situation by what seemed to be a xenophobic drive” to take the country out of the European Union and “deny access to a much-needed labour force”.

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The crucial point here is Mr Crerar has been in a position to observe both of these lamentable issues from a front-row seat over a very considerable time period.

In that sense, he is in many ways the opposite of ideologically entrenched politicians who make policy and spout their messages from ivory towers without much knowledge at all of what is happening on the ground.

And, in these days of increasingly sterile comments from many business leaders at pains not to upset one group of people or another, Mr Crerar’s frankness has been most refreshing.

What is more, the politicians would do well to listen to him given his great experience of both the hotel industry and operating in remote and rural communities.

Mr Crerar certainly did not mince his words last year when it came to Brexit’s effects.

He told The Herald: “There never was a position, certainly in Scotland, where EU workers were taking jobs or undercutting the wages of the indigenous UK labour pool. The fact was, and remains, that we simply don’t have enough people in our country for the work that needs done without immigration.

“The UK Government stance on pushing encouragement for unemployed [people] to relocate ‘where the work is’ is child-like in its simplicity – seeking families and communities to abandon what little they may have in their home environment without any sort of provision to support them to do so is wasted words given only as sound bites.”

These comments were on the money and their prescience has been underlined over the period since they were made.

Last week, we saw somewhat desperate efforts by the UK Government to attempt to fill the country’s huge number of job vacancies, estimated by the Office for National Statistics at 1.124 million, with threats to “welfare recipients” to apply sanctions “more rigorously”.

Scotland’s hospitality sector was one of the major beneficiaries of free movement of people between the UK and European Economic Area countries.

Those who came from EEA countries to work in Scotland’s hotels, restaurants and bars, many of them youthful, brought dynamism and drive, and most definitely improved service levels. It was night and day, relative to the bygone days when hungry tourists entering an establishment as it approached 2pm might be greeted by someone looking at their watch and declaring the chef was going home.

It was certainly a more attractive proposition than trying to get people to fill hospitality jobs by threatening to take away their welfare benefits.

Brexiters, some of them hysterical over those who would dare to challenge their ideology, often try to say that those who highlight the impact of leaving the EU on the labour force are complaining because they can no longer get “cheap labour”.

This is, in a general sense, nonsense and mere deflection.

Specifically, in terms of Crerar Hotel Group, Mr Crerar and his management team have been aiming to pay staff what continuing chief executive Chris Wayne-Wills described as “market-leading rates” in its locations.

They have focused on providing attractive conditions of employment, including bonuses.

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And great efforts have been made on staff training and development. This hard work looks to be paying off for the seven-strong portfolio of four and five star hotels built by Mr Crerar.

So the veteran hotelier’s comments about the effects of Brexit, which he has seen close up, have absolutely nothing to do with cheap labour. Mr Crerar has noted workers from other European countries are “anything but cheap labour”.

We should also bear in mind the large amount of money that the Crerar Trust has given to charity. This charitable trust has been distributing half of Crerar Hotel Group’s dispersable profits to good causes.

The group’s portfolio comprises the Loch Fyne Hotel & Spa at Inveraray, the Oban Bay Hotel, the Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa at Craignure, the Balmoral Arms at Ballater on Royal Deeside and the Golf View Hotel & Spa in Nairn, as well as Thainstone House in Inverurie and The Glencoe Inn.

Mr Crerar and his family, together with the Crerar Trust, owned more than 98% of the Scottish hotel group, which employs about 300 staff.

London investment firm Blantyre Capital and UK-based operating partner Fairtree Hotel Investments have acquired Crerar Hotel Group. The price was not disclosed but is almost certain to have run into tens of millions of pounds.

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Meeting Mr Crerar back in the 1990s in Oban, when he was at the relatively early stages of a career in hospitality which he started as a trainee, it was clear he was entirely in tune with the importance of people in the business.

Born and raised in Oban, and having developed close knowledge of many rural and remote communities during more than three decades in the hotel sector, he is very well qualified to talk about the housing crisis.

Mr Crerar, who is also a board member of economic development agency Highlands & Islands Enterprise, is able not only to highlight the problems and the root causes but also make constructive suggestions about how to try to solve them. The hotelier has not been shouty or one of those people who would point the finger at the Scottish Government for every problem north of the Border.

He believes local authorities must prioritise making it easier to secure planning permission for urgently needed housing, declaring that they are in his mind “the largest barrier”.

Mr Crerar emphasised, in an interview with The Herald last year, that “no one wants reckless, unfettered planning policies that allow anyone to build anything anywhere”. He voiced dismay over some of the developments allowed in Ireland.

However, citing his experience of housing provision across Scotland from his long career in hotels, he said the length of time it took for developers in remote and rural areas to secure planning permission for “even non-controversial construction projects” and the hoops they had to go through were “incredible”.

He declared: “This is about allowing developers to compensate for a desperate shortage of housing for workers.”

Mr Crerar added: “I genuinely believe the Scottish Government...really understand that we are certainly facing, in remote and rural areas, a crisis on affordable housing.”

He observed last year he was a “free-market person” but hammered home his belief that there should be a “bit more government intervention” when it came to the “Airbnb model”, with people having become “second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth home owners”.

Highlighting the lack of affordable houses to rent or buy, taking the example of a spa therapist earning £30,000 annually and a waiter or waitress making £20,000 to £24,000 for working normal hours, Mr Crerar pointed out: “That is a joint income of £50,000-plus yet they can’t get anywhere. They can’t afford to live in the areas they work in. There are simply not rental properties available. To get on the housing ladder, the number of available entry-level houses in places where we have hotels is really limited.”

This is a man with his finger on the pulse.

And his contributions, unlike the alarmist lobbying you see from time to time from some (although certainly not all) in the business world, have been valuable.

Hopefully, even though he has stepped back from the front line of the hospitality sector with the Crerar Hotel Group sale, he will continue to contribute his wisdom to inform meaningful debate. Such debate is crucial at a time of sometimes hysterical lobbying.

And policymakers would be well advised to heed his words.