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Breaking Barriers

Press release   •   Sep 28, 2016 15:05 BST

Seventy families facing some of the toughest challenges life can bring will be able to enjoy a day out thanks to a new partnership between VisitScotland, the Family Holiday Association and Scotland’s tourism industry.

After an appeal by the national tourism organisation to visitor attractions, transport companies and other public bodies, over 300 people from disadvantaged backgrounds —including 200 children — will receive a much-needed break this October.  Families from the West of Scotland will be among the first in Scotland to take part in the initiative.

This follows the ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ initiative, which was launched in February as part of the VisitScotland’s ScotSpirit campaign - a global movement built on extensive research which shows that people think Scotland has a unique spirit, whether it’s the magic of the landscapes or the warmth of the people.

VisitScotland began working with the UK charity Family Holiday Association and the tourism industry to create opportunities for struggling families in Scotland, many of whom will never have had a family holiday, to see more of their country. The project allowed nearly 100 families from across Scotland to participate in a short break.

The huge success of those ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ has now led to this new initiative, which will provide a regional case study based in Glasgow and surrounding regions. The learnings from the pilot will help shape how VisitScotland supports the tourism industry to promote inclusivity and help more people enjoy the benefits of a much needed break in Scotland.

Part of the original Spirit of Scotland campaign, ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ saw over 350 people from disadvantaged backgrounds enjoy a break this summer thanks to the spirit of generosity shown by accommodation providers, attractions and transport companies.

Over half (58%) of the families involved had never had a break together before and none had been able to take a break in the last two years. 94% were able to cope better as a result of the short break, and 100% were able to create happy memories together. Research shows that spending quality time together as a family away from home offers welcome respite from daily hardships, a new sense of optimism and hope for the future. There is evidence that breaks can result in stronger, healthier and happier families and communities.

Rooms, activities and travel for the ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ were donated to the families by 24 tourism businesses and partners across Scotland, with breaks taking place in Aberdeen, Aviemore, Dunblane, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oban, and Stirling. Both initiatives are truly collaborative projects aimed at making Scotland a more inclusive, welcoming destination.

The Family Holiday Association worked with a network of professionals including teachers, social workers and support workers who referred families for a break. All families have at least one child under the age of 18, are living on a low income and have not had a break in at least two years. The Family Holiday Association will also oversee the distribution of the Glasgow pilot day trips.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs today (Wednesday 28 September) announced The Glasgow Regional Pilot and the success of the ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ initiative at the Glasgow Science Centre where she met representatives of the families who have benefitted from the ScotSpirit breaks and project partner the Family Holiday Association.

Fiona Hyslop MSP said:

“The Scottish Government recognises the need for everyone to be able to have a holiday by improving access to breaks for those in difficult circumstances. The Glasgow pilot will offer much-needed breaks to vulnerable and disadvantaged families. We know that spending time together as a family can help build stronger, healthier and happier relationships.

“Over 350 people across the country have also benefitted from ScotSpirit breaks and I want to extend my sincere thanks to the accommodation providers, visitor attractions and transport companies for the generosity they’ve shown. The partnership, between Visit Scotland and The Family Holiday Association, has allowed even more families the chance to explore some of Scotland’s most iconic and picturesque attractions.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said:

“As the national tourism organisation, it is our role to ensure Scotland is an inclusive, welcoming destination for all. With one in three people unable to take a holiday in Scotland due to economic, social or health concerns, many are missing out on the significant benefits a short break can bring.

“Following the success of our ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ initiative, we want to raise the profile and importance of social tourism even more through our pilot in Glasgow this October.

“The Family Holiday Association, alongside many other charities throughout the UK, does an incredible job making holiday dreams become a reality, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank it and the tourism businesses which have donated accommodation, transport and activities to both the ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ and our Glasgow pilot. It is that generosity of spirit that makes Scotland what it is today.”

John McDonald, Director of the Family Holiday Association, said:

The Family Holiday Association is delighted to be working with VisitScotland on the Spirit of Scotland campaign. Over the years we’ve helped thousands of struggling Scottish families to benefit from a short break or day out to experience more of the ScotSpirit for themselves. This campaign is a fantastic opportunity to work with VisitScotland and its partners to help even more Scottish families in 2016.

“We see ScotSpirit every day in the families we help, families who are struggling with some of the toughest challenges life can bring but are able to create memories that will last a lifetime, strengthening family bonds along the way.”

Florence O’Hale, who was visiting Glasgow Science Centre following a ‘ScotSpirit’ weekend break with her 3-year-old daughter said:

Christmas came early for us and Santa visited in the form of a holiday offer! This was everything I ever imagined for my first holiday with my daughter and then some more. To say it was amazing would be an understatement.”

The Glasgow Regional Pilot day trips are open to families in the Glasgow City local authority area who are living on low income, won’t be having a holiday this year and will be unlikely to have a day out.

Businesses that have donated to The Glasgow Regional Pilot include: Glasgow Science Centre, ScotRail Abellio, City Link, SPT, Cal Mac, Rabbies Tours, Glasgow Life, Falkirk Wheel, Helix Park and Kelpies, Walter Scott Steamship, Bannockburn, Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre (Merlin), Mount Stuart, Vikingar, Robertson Museum and Aquarium, Largs Putting Green, The Bean & Leaf, Sugar & Spice, National Trust for Scotland, and Historic Environment Scotland.

Businesses that supported ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ include: Hilton Hotels, Scottish Youth Hostel Association, Ibis, Mercure and Novotel, Macdonald Hotels, Historic Environment Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Scotrail Abellio, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, City Sightseeing Bus Tours, Blair Drummond Safari Park, Glasgow Science Centre, Edinburgh Bus Tours, Natural Retreats, Helix Park and Kelpies, Aberdeen Science Centre, Wilderness Scotland, Dynamic Earth, The Real Mary Kings Close, Jacobite Cruises, Macduff Aquarium, Loch Morlich Watersports and Treetops Aviemore, Cal Mac, and the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions.

Social tourism enables those who can’t take a break - because of economic, health or social challenges - to experience the magic that a short break or day trip in Scotland can bring. VisitScotland wants to make it as easy as possible for people to discover Scotland. The impact for those who don’t have the opportunity for a break can be life-changing, and helping to increase access to tourism holds great potential for our industry.

Everyone who has shared their #ScotSpirit will become part of a special social movement. To find our more, visit: To find out more about the ScotSpirit Breaks social tourism initiative, visit

For more information on the Family Holiday Association, please visit:

Picture Caption: Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs is pictured with Demi MacLean (13) at the Glasgow Science Centre to celebrate the VisitScotland 'ScotSpirit breaks’ initiative.

Notes to Editors

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  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
    1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland       to visit different parts of the country
    2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
    3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international       opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One       Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
    4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
    5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
    6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
    7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
  • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP.
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      2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design

  • 2016 will shine a spotlight on Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design started on 1 January 2016 and will end on 31 December 2016.It will build on the momentum generated by the 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • Through a series of exciting events and activity, the year will showcase Scotland’s position as an “innovation nation”, its outstanding built heritage, and its thriving, internationally acclaimed creative industries sector.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Architecture + Design Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
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