Martin Hannan: Don’t celebrate a Festivals Tax

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You can call it a Transient Visitor Levy, you can call it a Festivals Tax, but visitors to Edinburgh will soon be paying a form of bedroom tax, a poll tax on tourists.

Make no mistake, the proposed Festivals Tax is seriously misguided as it does not differentiate between individual visitors and their ability to pay. And that’s a poll tax by any other name.

The latest plan for what is basically a peak period tourist bed tax is a major error by the city council, for it presumes that everyone who comes here will be able to afford the tax.

The biggest mistake that the new Edinburgh tax’s proponents make is that, by necessity, everyone will have to pay it, and pay the same amount. Otherwise it will be too complex and too costly to collect – it won’t be worth even starting it.

And despite all the warnings, as the Evening News revealed yesterday, the tax is going to be charged on the basis of “bed nights,” something that will be fiercely resisted by the city’s hotel trade who know that they are in a cutthroat competitive market in which even a few quid extra can make a difference as to which city a tourist visits.

My objection is not to a levy on tourists – there are plenty other ways to raise income from visitors – but to a tourist bed tax at any time of the year. Why is it that when people are unfairly targeted by the UK Government for having a bedroom or two too much – in Tory eyes – in their homes, there are humongous howls of protest, but when people occupy a bedroom in a hotel or guest house, they are seen as ripe for filleting?

No-one is arguing that the evil Tory attack on the poor is comparable to a tax on tourists, but the principle is the same – people will be hit regardless of their incomes. And that is my overwhelming objection to the new Festivals Tax – it cannot possibly take account of visitors’ ability to pay.

That’s what we must presume because those on the council who are negotiating with the Scottish Government haven’t told us what will happen. Will there be a different percentage of levy on five-star and three-star hotels? Or will it be a blanket charge?

Here’s some news for the taxers. Visitors to this city are not all wealthy. They choose to spend their hard-earned cash here because of the Capital’s beauty and its attractions – the Castle, the zoo, the museums and ­galleries. The latter two are (mostly) free, which greatly helps when, say, a family with young children are looking for a city break. How much will they be expected to pay in a Festivals Tax?

The real problem is not the actual amount, the problem is that it will be charged at all. Edinburgh will be tagged as the first city in Scotland to charge this levy and that will be seriously damaging to the Capital’s reputation, certainly in those countries where they know the difference between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The Scottish Government should step in and say that every council in Scotland must set a tourist bed tax, or just kick the whole idea into touch. I know which I prefer.

Council’s maths is not adding up

I watched the debate on Edinburgh council’s decision to increase the amount available for voluntary redundancy payments.

All along, one thought kept recurring to me – are there really 2000 “surplus” jobs in the council?

Even with the so-called transformation programme, I just cannot accept that figure.

Something’s just not right with the arithmetic.

She’s strident for Trident

On the subject of Trident, Labour’s Jackie Baillie claims that 13,000 quality jobs – up from the 11,000 she claimed two years ago – are dependent on it.

In that case, at the current renewal cost of £167 billion, all those 13,000 people could be paid £30,000 a year for 400 years or so and never have to do a day’s work.

Baillie, pictured, appointed herself long ago as spokeswoman for Faslane and Coulport, despite defence being a reserved matter. Having comprehensively lost the argument in her own party, will she now give her strident Trident advocacy a rest?

Three spears for Labour on Trident issue

As an SNP member, I welcome the Scottish Labour Party’s conversion to the sensible policy of my own party that Trident should not be renewed.

Scottish Labour is now in a ludicrous position – it has a policy that its local branch leader does not believe in, but is now excepted to campaign for, while its non-renewal policy is backed by its UK party leader who is a long way short of convincing the UK party to adopt the non-renewal policy.

It’s a mess for Labour, and has already attracted all sorts of opprobrium from the right wing Unionist press.

Though I doubt if it will win the party a single vote, on this occasion I must congratulate Scottish Labour on a principled stand.