THE possibility of Scotland’s tourism industry re-opening next month should give the beleaguered sector “some light at the end of a pretty long tunnel”, Fergus Ewing has said.

The Tourism Secretary said coronavirus lockdown restrictions, which forced the closure of pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants in March, has been “quite harrowing and even catastrophic for some businesses”.

But he said the prospect of UK holidaymakers having staycations in Scotland instead of holidaysabroad this summer could help the ailing sector.

His comments came as the Macdonald Hotels group was reported to be preparing to make 1800 of its workers redundant.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Ewing said: “I hope people throughout the UK will perhaps take the advantage of having a staycation rather than a foreign holiday. The aim is to give tourism a boost for the remainder of the summer, provided, of course, the science is with us.”

Ewing’s comments came after his announcement that tourism and hospitality businesses in Scotland could re-open on July 15 if progress in suppressing coronavirus continues.

The minister said he is “very keen” to have a marketing campaign to further help the industry before that.

Ewing said: “I hope our friends in other parts of the UK will perhaps come to Scotland rather than maybe go on a plane somewhere, so there maybe opportunities that will arise.

“I am very, very keen to see us revive our tourism industry because this period has been quite harrowing and even catastrophic for some businesses. The toll on people who have lost their livelihoods overnight in lockdown has been a very heavy one indeed.

“I hope and believe the announcement has given some hope and some light at the end of a pretty long tunnel. It is absolutely essential that businesses who after all have had no income for 12 weeks now are able to retrieve from this summer season some successful trading.”

Ewing stressed the re-opening of tourism depends on restrictions on travel being lifted, with this not scheduled to happen until phase three of the four-point plan for lifting lockdown.

By then it is proposed Scots will be able to drive beyond their local area for leisure and exercise purposes, with public transport operating full services – although capacity will “still be significantly limited to allow for physical distancing”.

The earliest date for that is July 9, with Ewing stressing “the science and health advice must be in the right place”.

He added that in the Scottish Government “our judgment was July 15 provides sufficient time to prepare”.