Scottish Labour’s Culture spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson has today written to VisitScotland to call for urgent action to be taken on their timeline for 20th Century Scotland which ignores key achievements and focuses on the SNP’s milestones and the issue of Independence.

Patricia Ferguson MSP

Patricia Ferguson said: “We need clarity that there has been no political interference in VisitScotland’s ability to impartially promote Scotland to the world. I have written to Malcolm Roughead for reassurance that the partisan depiction of 20th century Scotland is an honest mistake that will be rectified as a matter of urgency.  “There is a lot to be proud of in our recent history; we lead the world in scientific research, we were trailblazers in inventing some of the necessities of everyday life and we have world class educational establishments that draw thousands of students every year, yet VisitScotland make no mention of any of this.

 “As the outward face of this country to the world VisitScotland has a duty to promote the best we have on offer and they do so well and have played an important part in ensuring our reputation as a great place to visit.  We need to ensure that their ability to continue to deliver campaigns for tourists is in no way turned into a political tool for the independence debate.”

Patricia’s letter to Visit Scotland

As a former Scottish Government Minister with responsibility for Tourism and Culture, I worked closely with VisitScotland on a number of occasions and I have a great deal of respect for the integrity of the organisation and the important role it fulfills.
I was surprised and disappointed, therefore, at the partial and partisan view of Scotland’s history presented in the “timeline” on the VisitScotland website. From 1945 onwards, it is entirely devoted to Scottish politics, with every entry containing specific reference to either the Scottish National Party or the Scottish independence movement. For example, rather than marking the end of the 2nd World War the entry for 1945 marks the election of the first Scottish National Party MP to the House of Commons.
Scotland has a rich and varied history: in the 20th Century alone, Scots played a key role in the discovery of penicillin and the science and research behind the cloning which produced Dolly the Sheep. I strongly believe that prospective visitors to Scotland would prefer to read about these events – or, indeed, the fact that Glasgow is due to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014 – than a potted history of the SNP and the Scottish independence movement.
As Scotland’s national tourism body, VisitScotland’s remit is to promote Scotland in the best positive light as an international tourism destination; I cannot see how the debate surrounding Scotland’s constitutional future is relevant to this. Moreover, with the Referendum Bill currently progressing through the Scottish Parliament, the manner in which non-departmental public bodies conduct their work will come under increasing scrutiny, and concerted efforts will be made to ensure such organisations maintain their operational independence throughout the course of the debate.
It is vital that VisitScotland enjoys the confidence of all Scottish residents and visitors, regardless of their political affiliation. In light of this, I would appreciate your confirmation that neither Scottish Ministers nor their representatives have exercised any influence over the content of VisitScotland’s website, or any of its online and offline promotional literature. I am sure you will appreciate the importance of this issue and I would ask that this timeline is altered as a matter of urgency to accurately depict the great achievements of 20th Century Scots.

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