FERGUS Ewing has said he is confident that Scotland’s tourism industry will re-open for business next month as planned.

Speaking to the BBC, the Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary said the only thing that could get in the way would be a “dreadful second wave of contagion”.

The sector is gearing up to welcome back guests from July 15.

New guidance was published by the government last week for businesses and customers ahead of trading resuming for the first time in almost four months.

However, some in the industry are wary after the government took a more cautious approach to the re-opening of beer gardens than expected.

Some of Scotland’s pubs had been planning to reopen last weekend, as the country entered phase two of the route map out of lockdown.

However, on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon said there was “emerging evidence that places such as pubs, restaurants and gyms can be hotspots for transmission.”

She has commissioned further scientific evidence which will report back at the start of next month.

Asked to give a guarantee that Scotland’s tourism sector would restart the July 15 date, Ewing said: “I am not going to sit here and make promises I can’t deliver, but I am confident we will adhere to that date. It would only be if there was a dreadful second wave of contagion as a result of irresponsible behaviour of the sort, sadly, we have seen over previous weekends.”

Ewing said the date was chosen so it could benefit from the easing of current travel restrictions.

He also warned that the UK Government’s plans to end the furlough scheme in October would be “pretty draconian” .

Ewing said that much of Scotland’s tourism sector depends on a season which lasts only from April to September.

He told the programme: “We do think that the assistance which will expire in October will be insufficient to achieve the primary objective here, which is to mitigate financial hardship for businesses who at the moment have no revenue but face overheads which continue to be paid,” he said.

“Our assessment is that the impact on tourism, even after resumption – which we hope will happen on July 15 in Scotland – will be so severe that longer-term help will be required.”

He added: “I am hopeful we can achieve something in Scotland but also in other parts of the UK where the need for this will be similar. November is a very bad time for the hotel sector. Many in rural and island communities in the tourism sector have a season which lasts only from April to September.

“Therefore to cut off support just at the time when the season ends, from that point of view, looks to be pretty draconian.” Ewing went on to say that governments in France, Italy and Spain had provided “enormous packages” of financial support for the industry.

“We do believe that the UK will need to look again, and very seriously, at the nature and extent of support which could include a cut of VAT rate to 5%, which I believe is an approach that other countries in the EU are taking,” he said.

Appearing on the same programme, Tory Scotland Office minister Ian Stewart said it wasn’t “helpful” to focus on the furlough scheme lasting beyond October.