6.4 million holidaymakers are expected to arrive in Scotland this summer and more than a third (2.3 million) are heading for the Highlands and Islands.

This unprecedented influx is being welcomed by some in the tourism trade, dreaded by communities in fragile areas without visitor infrastructure and shrugged off by experts since millions arrive in Scotland every year and Covid restrictions mean high-spending foreigners have essentially been replaced by ourselves.

Fine. Why wouldn’t folk who’ve always fancied a trip to the land of Scott, Burns, McCaig, Nessie, Outlander and Harry Potter decide "now is the time"?

Except that the bulk of holidaymakers will not be from Scotland – as usual.

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The latest VisitScotland visitor survey shows: "Sixty-six per cent of Scotland intenders are non-Scotland residents with the north of England and London contributing the highest number of potential visitors."

It is of course grand that so many neighbours fancy Scotland above any other British holiday destination. But what’s happening to Scots?

Do we head south on the basis a change is as good as a rest?

Are these proportions unremarkable given the much greater population of England?

Or are Scots more Covid-cautious, expecting cancellations and fresh restrictions even on trips "at home"?

VisitScotland finds Scots are "significantly less likely to commit to a trip [in Scotland] compared to adults from the rest of the UK" – and speculates that this reflects stricter Scottish Government restrictions throughout the pandemic.

But there’s another possible explanation – traditionally Scots have needed conveniently-placed relatives, caravans, SYHA membership cards or wadges of cash for a holiday in Scotland because "staycations" cost an arm and a leg – especially for young families.

For decades the average Scot has been priced out of the local holiday market – and there’s been precious little complaint.

There is outrage about the worsening plight of young Highlanders, unable to find housing or land in the tourism hotspots of Skye, Aviemore, Speyside, Loch Ness, the whole North Coast 500 route and beyond.

But that housing and land shortage has driven up the price of holiday accommodation too.

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Harry Potter and Outlander have brought Highland landscapes to a world audience, so Scottish holidays – always relatively expensive – now cost an arm and a leg with many B&B’s starting at £140 per night and totally booked. Yet, there’s precious little outcry. Exclusion feels natural – ‘och, we’ll try again next year’ – and expensive overnight trips are the norm.

It is a form of holiday apartheid.

Now of course, Scotland is also full of folk who always camp or holiday at home. My own family virtually squatted all summer long in the homes of obliging Wick relatives. Without their generous gifts of space, connection and time, I would never have got to know Caithness, Orkney and the Highlands. Like so many other city-based Scots, my family would have joined the queue for two weeks in the sun, and that holiday pattern would have followed me for life.

It’s a paradox.

Brits have the longest working hours with the weakest paid holiday legislation in Europe. It makes those two weeks in the sun so precious and highly charged.

But we fight for our right to party – not for the right to spend our precious holiday time in our own country.

Why not?

The Norwegians have almost 600,000 wooden weekend huts – roughly one hytte for every extended family in Norway, rich and poor. They have more caravans, mountain bothies, youth hostels and boats per head of the population too. Hytte owners don’t compete with locals for existing homes or with foreign visitors (and one another) for hotel rooms and self-catering cottages.

They’ve got their own family-owned holiday homes and can use them whenever they like, without booking, deposits, notice, explanation or vast expense.

We don’t.

And that’s because of one vexed issue – land.

In Norway it’s always been relatively cheap and easy to buy land, thanks to the absence of feudalism and presence of legislation to deter large-scale, absentee land ownership. Meanwhile in Scotland, land is visually plentiful but economically scarce, thanks to an ownership pattern that’s more concentrated today than it was in 1872.

It may not be the talk of the Steamie, I’ll grant you. But Scots badly need the option of family-owned, weekend wooden huts for relaxed family holidays in Scotland – all year-round. Yet whilst land reform stays low on the SNP’s agenda, the appetite for such "unconventional", low-impact holidays is weak and the demand for a hutting revolution is even weaker.

Yet freeing up land wouldn’t just produce more affordable holiday locations for urban Scots. It would also help rural tourism businesses scale up to take advantage of the current visitor influx.

Chronic staff shortages in the Highlands have led 50 per cent of businesses to cut opening hours or services. The shortage is only partly explained by the disappearance of EU workers post-Brexit. A bigger problem in many places is a desperate shortage of accommodation as every other house or room becomes an Air BnB or short-term let.

This also explains the difficulty of finding local staff. In many areas – there aren’t any. Even before Covid, unemployment in the Aviemore area, was just one per cent with constant vacancies. That should have prompted an influx of new workers. Except there’s nowhere affordable to live.

It’s a vicious circle and it should be a scandal.

The plight of Highlanders without homes is actually linked to the plight of Scots without holidays. Both are casualties of a land scarcity that’s been completely untouched by two Land Reform Bills.

As a result, five million Scots do not have access to a family but ‘n’ ben, handed down from generation to generation, but are forced into the commercial holiday sector instead, driving prices up and availability down.

So, will Scots risk midges and rain for an expensive holiday at home or wait till 2022 and (hopefully) an escape to guaranteed sun?

It’s a no brainer.

The lack of outcry about the absence of affordable holidays in Scotland is really quite simple.

Folk don’t miss what they’ve never had.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.