Helin’ air to heal Londoners

glen coe

A fairly recent Scotsman article revealed VisitScotland’s plans to target Londoners for wellness breaks north of the border. Spiritual retreats and mindfulness centres are being framed against the Scottish Highlands in an attempt to capture a share of the burgeoning 490billion dollar wellness industry.

Scotland’s tourism industry continues to morph and mutate with each passing decade. Today, the TV series Outlander is responsible for bringing thousands to the country to visit the locations aired on the popular show. The evidence for this is in the vast increase of people caught caressing Neolithic standing stones in a wishful bid that they too will fall into the arms of a hunky highland man like the series protagonist.

SNP backbenchers – some of whom are more fossil than fossil fuel – attempted to capitalise upon the upsurge in visitor numbers to Scotland — backing a controversial bill to slash airport departure tax. The policy was proposed to help further stimulate growth in Scotland’s tourism sector.

Nicola Sturgeon and the party, however, were forced to make a U-turn on the decision. Worryingly, pressure from Scottish Labour aided the termination of a bill set to see increases in carbon emission by up to 60,000 tonnes a year. Using Scottish Labour as a barometer for anything had to have caused deep fissures of unease for SNP supporters.

Scottish Labour has limped along incongruous to the rise of Corbynism south of the border. Costly blunders and poorly calculated efforts have allowed the party to slip from their core demographic, surely sealing the irrelevance here in Scotland.

With the government in Westminster on course for violent self-destruction, the SNP’s decision to revoke the divisive bill may have been a tactical one to remind the people of their existence.

Only in a country where First Ministers all must adopt the surnames of sea creatures do we truly get a perspective on their views over rising ocean levels.

There has been a spike in the number of Chinese tourists to Scotland. The trend is in part due to a rising middle-class, which has helped establish direct flights from Beijing to Edinburgh. Across Asia, the demand for English teachers has risen in accord with this upward trajectory. There is the feeling that little can be done though to prepare Asian guests for the bellicose reception of the Lothian bus driver awaiting them at Edinburgh airport.

VisitScotland’s intentions to lure Londoners to Scotland should come as no surprise. With the Conservative government inexplicably bound to fracking, there has been a swell in antipathy toward the degradation of the English countryside. Soon, the volume of purified water you can bundle into your car will be the determinate of your stay in the Yorkshire Dales.

Concerns over air quality in London are on the rise. The NHS has warned that air pollution is linked to premature deaths in inner-city areas. With the air quality in London only marginally better than your average Fife coalmine, it is clear why VisitScotland are flaunting the clean air of the highlands to promote short weekend breaks.

Scotland will likely become synonymous with wellness vacations soon.

It is becoming known as a place to ‘cut-off’ from the civic responsibilities of city life. In the highlands, you are still more likely to connect with a fellow human being than reliable Wi-Fi. The low population density, gentle pace and appalling services in the north are part of a largely forgotten way of life. One that people only now are beginning to see the virtue of.

The transformation of the holiday to ‘wellness break’, however, is more than a subtle change in semantics.

The rise in mindfulness centres and spiritual retreats underline a fundamental shift in societal pressures. It is not uncommon for people to search for greater meaning and depth in a seemingly arbitrary world. It is, however, excruciatingly familiar in a world of boundary-less offices and hyper-connectivity. There is an overwhelming feeling for some today, that life-work commitments have been irreparably blurred.

In London, bright young prospects are drawn to one of the world’s most seminal cities only to be churned up and burnt out by a ceaseless machine.

Longer working hours and a regular injection of purposelessness at the start of the working week have helped create restlessness. Many have turned to spiritualism in an attempt to fill an insatiable void, and suppress the gnawing suspicion that things are not as they should be.

Is the solution to send Londoners in their droves to Scotland for a few gulps of the Healin’ air? Well, the promotion of internal travel over short-haul flights is undoubtedly not the worst first step in reducing CO2 emissions and stimulating the local economy. And, who knows, maybe after people become acquainted with the beauty of the British Isles they will be stauncher in protecting it from the imminent threat of climate change.

Liam McGuckin

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