A trend over the past 30 years has pointed towards milder winters and warmer summers but new research has rejected the traditional fear that a globally-warmed Scotland would simply see a lot more mild drizzle. Instead it concludes that the east coast will enjoy hours more sunshine, boosting hopes of increased revenue from tourists. Should it happen, tourism experts are predicting that Scottish towns like Arbroath would resemble Breton coastal resorts, with harbours filled with yachts and pleasure craft.
The report, "Potential Effects of Climate Change on the Scottish Tourist Industry", suggests that, if the climate continues to get milder and warmer, then, while the west of Scotland will get more rain, the east coast will see a drop in downpours.
"Over the past decade there has been a trend to milder winters and sunnier summers," said Dr John Harrison, lecturer in Environmental Science at Stirling University and co-author of the report. "If this trend continues there would be a drastic reduction in rainfall over the summer months."
The warmer weather is being caused by strengthened westerly air in the warmer Atlantic and fewer streams of cold air from continental Europe. Though the link has not been made to global warming, the trend is clear.
The news has been welcomed along the east coast, from Nairn, on the Moray Firth to Arbroath and Dunbar in the south. "We would be delighted if the weather does get warmer. At one time the east coast resorts relied very heavily on tourism but that has waned," said Duncan Bryden, tourism and environment manager for the Scottish Tourist Board.
The resorts' halcyon days were the 1950s and 1960s, before air travel revolutionised tourism, when beaches and town centres were full of holidaymakers. Arbroath, nearby Lunan Bay with its four-mile beach, and Carnoustie, east of Dundee, were popular destinations for the two-week holiday for factory workers in Glasgow and Dundee.
"If it improves then it won't go back to what it once was but it will encourage more water sports, sailing, water-skiing and windsurfing," said Mr Bryden.
"I think it would resemble something like the resorts of Brittany rather than the south French coast. It would be a shot in the arm for them."
Warmer weather would encourage more leisure yachting in harbour towns such as Montrose and Nairn, said Mr Bryden. "A change in the climate would be the spur to economic and social and environmental regeneration for places which have suffered.
"That would improve property prices around the harbours, increase activity in town centres and lead to more shops."
East coast towns would also welcome a different type of visitor, according to Dr Colin Smith, chief executive of Angus and Dundee tourist board, which is responsible for Arbroath. "A change in temperature would open up new opportunities and may lead to a resurgence in family holidays and short breaks taken later in the year."
He pointed out that, because of the Westerly climate, Arbroath traditionally enjoys as much sunshine as Dorset, though not always the same temperatures.
However, Dr Harrison's report is a guide to what tourism managers might expect and they would do well to heed his warning on water levels. "All this could lead to a water deficit in the east. More tourists will mean a demand for more water."
Fears of the impact global warming might have on the Scottish ski-ing industry were unfounded, he said. "It would lead to a remarkable change in snow distribution but only at intermediate level of 3,000 feet. Snow will still fall on the higher ground."
But will warm weather mean the end to the dramatic and moody low cloud which can make for such atmospheric trips on foot or by car through the Cairngorms? "There's always an attraction of moody aspects of Scotland but when it does get a bit excessive it can be a bit off-putting," said Dr Smith.
But if other environmental studies are right, Scotland could endure a much colder climate due to the diversion or disappearance of the Gulf Stream.
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