Scottish Tourist Board not worried about travel boycott

Last week’s controversial release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison has sparked calls for a travel boycott of Scotland. Al-Megrahi was convicted of involvement in the plot to blow up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. A total of 270 people died. He was given a life sentence but released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return to Libya because he’s dying of prostate cancer and has less than three months to live. Coming off the plane in Libya he was given a hero’s welcome, with some in the crowd waving Scottish flags.

Now websites are springing up like Boycott Scotland and there are online petitions, including a Scottish one, protesting the terrorist’s release. The Scottish Tourist Board, however, doesn’t appear worried. Americans made 340,000 trips to Scotland last year, spending £260 million, and officials have seen no sign of a significant numbers of people canceling their trips.

Al-Megrahi’s release caused widespread condemnation in Scotland, the United States, and other countries. The Scottish parliament has been recalled for an emergency meeting as many ministers openly criticized the move and said the will of the Scottish people was not carried out.

I’m in England at the moment, and spent the last seven days on the border with Scotland, and everyone I’ve spoken to about this, English and Scottish, opposed his release. Will this move hurt Scottish tourism? Probably a bit. A few people will cancel trips, hurting the owners of hotels and B&Bs where they had reserved rooms, but the amount probably won’t be enough to hurt the Scottish government, which was responsible for this decision.