IN Tiree a few years ago, a planning application from a local family was inundated with objections from people who visit regularly or who own second homes, concerned that their annual view of the sunset would be spoiled by the new house.

There is a certain type of person who seems to be able to build whatever they want, wherever they want. Suffice to say they are rarely local families. The planning applications could paper a room, and the houses are enticingly titled “architect designed”.

Too often modelled on a flawed understanding of what a “black house” actually is, it would appear that the uglier and less in keeping with the vernacular they are, the more likely they are to win a prize and a double-page spread in The Times. And naturally, they sit empty most of the year while the rest of us have to look at them. Our view appears to be less of a concern.

The National:

On the other hand, if the proposed property is a fairly simple affair, on or near a croft, and to be lived in by people who wish to be there permanently and financially contribute to an area, it seems to be an uphill battle to get so much as a shed approved.

The Hebridean Baker (above) and his partner ignited ire in Oban by daring to ask for planning permission to build a house on their croft. It will, we are reliably informed, spoil some people’s relaxing dog walks.

This inconsistency is just one symptom of a problem which pervades the lives of those living in beautiful places. Today’s tourism industry is based almost entirely on the view. The land upon which people live and work is seen simply as a means to get to the view. To all intents and purposes, it is unimportant.

That was made abundantly clear last week after a crofter in Harris went viral on Facebook. He had found human excrement on common grazing land for the second time in as many weeks. His anguished video generated more than 300 comments, the majority of which agreed with his concerns.

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Into the melee strode Outer Hebrides Tourism. Now, if you want a shining example of how not to approach local concerns about tourism, then this was exemplary, and a helpful insight as to why many in the Western Isles seem to regard their local destination management organisation (DMO) with such a healthy amount of suspicion.

They made a statement. Not designed to calm local frustration. Not announcing redoubled lobbying efforts to ensure more funding for our beauty spots. Not opening a dialogue. Instead, it reprimanded the naughty locals. If you make too much fuss all the tourists will be gone, and then where will you poor peasants be? I’m paraphrasing but that’s the general gist.

Resident communities in beautiful places are beset by problems but dare to complain and apparently it will be their fault if the geese who lay those golden tourism eggs take flight for Spain next year. Complainants should leave to one side their desire for a functional property, at the edges of what they can reasonably afford, in the place they wish to live and work.

“Cha toir boidhchead bruich air poit.” Beauty will not boil a pot. To put it bluntly, you cannot eat the view.

They should resist the temptation to be frustrated as their lives are up-ended for half of the year. They should instead arm themselves with trowels and bin bags and be grateful for the pennies as the visitors stare slack-jawed at the view.

As my grandfather was apparently wont to say, in Gaelic: “Cha toir a' bhoidhchead goil air a phoit.” Beauty will not boil a pot. To put it bluntly, you cannot eat the view.

Nowhere is that clearer right now than in Scotland’s beauty spots. As increasing numbers of properties have been taken out of permanent residence and converted to second homes, the view may not have changed dramatically but the make-up of the community certainly has. With that has come a distinct lack of working-age people.

Few industries are being hit as hard by that reality as the hospitality industry. Staff are hard to find. When they are found, they need to be housed and there are no houses. Many hotels and restaurants are limiting opening hours because they don’t have the staff. Pots are literally not boiling.

The National: Soroby Bay on Tiree

If such places are forced to reduce hours or close altogether, the tourists who enjoy both the scenery and a full belly will quickly realise that the view, while pretty, isn’t very filling. And off they will go.

The risk of Facebook rants putting visitors off should be the very least of the concerns of any self-respecting DMO. The truth is that the geese and their golden eggs will fly south whether there are annoyed crofters ranting on Facebook or not. We once thought the herring were here to stay, but they moved on. Kelp was the answer for long enough, but that industry moved on too.

The seasons turn and, post-Covid, there is a good chance that the Med will once again look like the better option. Not least because the price of many “architect-designed” self-catering properties would make your eyes water.

Short-termism is already nipping at our heels. The organisations which purport to manage our tourism need to take a far more holistic view.

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If they had the best interests of the locals at the core of what they do, they would have been agitating decades ago for increased resourcing for local development trusts, for housing projects, for childcare, for sustainable year-round employment and vastly improved visitor amenities.

They would be working much harder to keep communities on side rather than simply producing the occasional poster about litter and advice on burying your waste.

Toileting aside, if those of us in fragile places have any hope of navigating the challenges ahead, then Tourism with a capital T must become predominantly community owned and led. The majority of the profits have to find their way into local pockets to ensure people remain permanently resident in beautiful places. Locals must have a say about how the industry should work for them. They know their context best.

The view isn’t going anywhere but without active and engaged resident communities, there will be no tourism worth mentioning. If those in charge of the industry don’t realise fast that the community is what makes their destination a success, then it’s not the fault of the locals if the visitors take flight.