The SNP has shot down a suggestion that the royal yacht Britannia could be removed from Scotland and used for trade missions by the UK government after the country leaves the EU.
On Tuesday afternoon, MPs will debate recommissioning Britannia or creating a new royal yacht to help the UK government boost trade after Brexit – a suggestion made by Tory MPs, which government ministers have hinted they're open to.
Ben Macpherson, the MSP for Leith, who represents the SNP, told BuzzFeed News the royal yacht Britannia is a vital source of tourism for his constituency and he will fight any move to take it away.
Britannia, which has been kept in the port of Leith to the north of Edinburgh since it was decommissioned in 1998, attracts over 300,000 tourists to the area annually and is consistently voted Scotland's top tourist attraction.
"The royal yacht Britannia is a valued and appreciated tourist destination in my constituency," Macpherson told BuzzFeed News.
"People from around the world enjoy visiting it in its current setting in Leith, to learn about its past. The future of the boat should continue as a historic attraction in the historic port of Leith – it is part of our past, not a solution for the future."
Macpherson added: "The UK government should focus on its serious responsibilities, instead of considering distracting acts of British nationalistic symbolism like recommissioning Britannia.
"Britannia is settled in Leith and Leith likes and appreciates it as part of the community – that's where it should remain."
Deidre Brock, the MP for Leith who will speak in Tuesday afternoon's debate on the future of the royal yacht, is expected to tell MPs that the world has moved on from "flashboat democracy" and that no money should be spent on recommissioning the yacht or building a new one.
"How, exactly, does anyone square the fact that benefit sanctions mean that the poorest, weakest, and most disadvantaged people are being left to go cold and hungry but we will all be paying for a new pleasure cruiser for the royal family?" Brock will ask MPs.
"This is a different world from the world in which the yacht was decommissioned, never mind the world in which it was commissioned in the first place. If members want to see economic revival they’ll ask for austerity to be eased and spending resumed."
A letter entitled "Bring Back Britannia" and signed by 75 Tory MPs said recommissioning the royal yacht would be a "fitting tribute" to the Queen and help shape the UK's trading future after Brexit.
“Recommissioning or rebuilding a new yacht, which would be the 85th royal yacht since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, would also be a fitting tribute to the hard work and dedication of Her Majesty the Queen," the letter said.
"This is why now is the time for the government to set up a commission examining the contribution the return of a royal yacht can make, in order that she, together with our royal family, can help us shape our future as an optimistic global trading nation.”
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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