John Mason MSP leads debate in Scottish Parliament

Social tourism subject of a major debate in Scotland

Tuesday 30 April witnessed a major debate on Social tourism in Holyrood. John Mason, Glasow Shettleston MSP, lodged a motion supporting easier access to holidays for disadvantaged families which received cross-party support allowing the debate to take place.

John Mason, MSP

John Mason, MSP

The debate, scheduled for 5pm on the Tuesday was preceded by a briefing session on social tourism for MSPs in Committee Room 2. Ten MSPs, again representing the three main parties – SNP, Labour and Conservative – attended and signaled their interest in the subject.


“Too many families are missing out on the benefits that quality time together can provide.” John McDonald, Charity Director

In addition to Family Holiday Association representatives, we were delighted that the briefing was also attended by a number of other organisations and companies with an interest in the debate. Canvas Holidays, a Dunfermline-based travel company and long-time supporter of the charity, were represented by Isabell Sinclair, call centre manager and charity advocate; the Family Fund was represented by Salena Begley, Development Manager for Scotland; Sandaig Primary School, Glasgow who have worked with the charity over the past few years had Linda Burke, their Deputy Head; TUI UK & Ireland, the charity’s major corporate supporter had both Paul Cooper, Manager Airport Negotiations, and Michelle McMenamin, Divisional Sales Manager for North England/Scotland; Visit Scotland were represented by Liz Buchannan, Regional Partnerships Director, and Chris McCoy, Equality & Diversity Manager and Project Co-ordinator for accessibility.

Together with our partners we were able to present a convincing and well-rounded case for the importance of holidays.


John McDonald and Fergus Ewing

John McDonald and Fergus Ewing

John McDonald, director of the charity, was also granted a meeting with the Scottish Minister responsible for tourism, Fergus Ewing.

Mr Ewing was keen to learn more about the Family Holiday Association’s views and indicated his interest in the subject.

Mr Ewing wound up the debate on the motion with the remark “I conclude by returning to John Mason’s central tenet that the “more” that we should be doing should be directed specifically towards families on low incomes, children, people who have disabilities, and especially toward s those who have not had a chance in life to have a holiday or a break and to have what the rest of us take for granted. We therefore look forward… to do more in Scotland for social tourism.”
John McDonald, Director of the Family Holiday Association, commented after the meeting:

“Too many families are missing out on the benefits that quality time together can provide.

“While many take a holiday for granted, literally millions of families miss out each year. So the Family Holiday Association fully supports John Mason’s attempt to push this up the political agenda. As a charity, we are also calling for greater recognition of the advantages of more families getting a break and exploring how tourism and welfare sectors can work together to not only deliver real benefits for troubled families but provide a boost to the Scottish tourism economy too.”

The debate was televised by the BBC and is available to view here.

Speaking from Parliament after the debate, the SNP’s John Mason MSP said:

“I suppose the first question we would expect when raising holidays for those on low income is: ‘surely a holiday is a luxury and people on low incomes have no right to that.’ I would very much want to challenge this assertion and tonight’s debate was a good opportunity to do that.

“It’s quite clear from the academic research that the benefits of short breaks can be very worthwhile.” John Mason, MSP

“Given that stress affects us across the income spectrum and is actually a key factor in health in poorer areas, I believe that holidays and leisure activities are also necessary across the income spectrum and they are not a luxury available only to those on good incomes. And these are points supported by research. Nottingham University research shows that 77% of families were happier after a holiday, 70% were more optimistic and 74% had a more positive outlook on life.

“The Scottish Government is particularly keen to put an emphasis on preventative spending and I think it’s quite clear from the academic research that the benefits of short breaks can be very worthwhile, even from a health point of view. Turning to the economics, Spain’s IMSERSO scheme allows a number of pensioners to get away to the coast which, of course, extends the holiday season, boosts the local economy and provides more employment opportunities. A Price Waterhouse Coopers report found that for every €1 invested in the programme, an additional €1.5 was generated in tax revenue, so the financial aspect of social tourism is also interesting”.

The motion
“That the Parliament affirms the economic and social value of social tourism, a term that describes efforts to include people living on low income, dealing with physical or mental impairment or experiencing other disadvantage, in holiday and leisure activities; highlights what it considers the positive enhancement of the quality of family life through equitable access to high value rest and recreation regardless of disadvantage or poverty; believes that partnership working between tourism and welfare sector partners can improve the quality of family life for those parents and children who experience disadvantage as a result of poverty through the provision of and by promoting access to holidays and other recreational activities; notes what it considers the significant economic and social benefits brought by social tourism programmes in countries such as France, Spain and Belgium; considers that increased social tourism initiatives in Glasgow Shettleston and across Scotland would be of benefit to both struggling individuals and families, contribute to the work of social welfare organisations and strengthen the wider tourism sector, and would welcome the growth of social tourism in Scotland.”

The motion was supported by 26 MSPs from the three main parties in Parliament –

Bob Doris, Chic Brodie, Joan McAlpine, Bill Kidd, Richard Lyle, Bill Walker, David Torrance, Mike MacKenzie, Stuart McMillan, Adam Ingram, Gil Paterson, Maureen Watt, Clare Adamson, Colin Beattie, Jamie Hepburn, Mark McDonald, Colin Keir, Nigel Don, Annabelle Ewing, Dave Thompson, Murdo Fraser, Margaret McCulloch, Siobhan McMahon, Rhoda Grant, Anne McTaggart, Mary Scanlon.

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