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"Tourist tax" ideas go out to consultation

10 September 2019

How a "tourist tax" specific to their area might be created and levied by local authorities is the subject of a new Scottish Government consultation. 

Members of the public, businesses and the tourism sector are invited to give their views on the design of a levy which would allow councils, if they see fit, to charge visitors a fee for staying overnight in their area. The power will not extend to other bodies such as national park authorities or community councils. It will be entirely at the discretion of each authority whether to introduce a levy.

They would be allowed to keep the money generated to reinvest in tourism-related activities in their community.

Pressure for a tax has come as a result of significant growth over the last decade in the number of both overnight and day visitors in places such as Edinburgh and parts of the Highlands, affecting the local environment and activities that tourists wish to enjoy. Some in the tourism sector have expressed concerns at possible adverse effects of a further cost to visitors, and so the plans as developed so far aim to provide a direct benefit to the sector.

The Government's initial position is that there should be some overarching design principles set out in national legislation which must be followed by all local authorities that opt to introduce a visitor levy. However, within that national framework the intention is to enable individual local authorities, working with local tourism partners, to have as much freedom to take decisions as appropriate.

While the principal focus is on a levy on overnight stays, collected by accommodation providers, the desirability and feasibility of other types of levy are raised, such as on day visitors, cruise ship visitors, rough camping or parking of motorhomes, or access to particular streets.

Launching the consultation, Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes explained: “This will not be a national tax and it will be for individual local authorities to decide whether or not to apply an overnight fee if they consider it appropriate for the local community. Money raised by those local authorities who introduce a levy will be retained by them to invest in local tourism activity, helping to safeguard the sustainability of the industry.

“I hope that as many people as possible respond to this consultation to ensure that the legislation strengthens local decision making and enhances tourism across Scotland.”

Click here to access the consultation. Submissions can be made until 2 December 2019.


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