Paul Eadie: Tourists who enjoy Edinburgh should pay

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I can’t be alone in thinking that this might be the busiest festival on record. It seems that every spare inch of the city has been turned into a performance space and the Fringe in particular seems to have spread out to almost every corner of the Capital.

The crowds are so big that when getting off the bus to go into the city chambers one evening I found throngs on the High Street I have only seen before at New Year.

The Festival certainly brings a vibrancy and colour to the city; and noise, lots of noise. And fun, lots of fun, even if it does take 20 minutes to get a sandwich.

That vibrancy and bustle, though, is deftly translated into jobs and profits for Edinburgh businesses, especially our hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants. More than 5000 full-time, permanent jobs rely on the festivals and many more temporary posts too.

Many people would think that the success we are seeing means that everything in the garden is rosy and we can just carry on as we are, that the 70-year-old golden goose that is Edinburgh’s festivals will continue to lay golden eggs. I would strongly argue against such complacency.

Edinburgh’s cultural economy is something others would dearly love to copy and other British cities would dearly love to knock us off our perch and attract some of our business away.

The £50k Thundering Hooves report recently raised concerns that cuts in public funding may see the city “relegated” from the top tier of cultural cities. Thundering Hooves highlighted the need to improve city-wide IT, travel and accommodation measures and identified the need for a new concert hall. We clearly can’t afford to rest on our laurels, and if we are to safeguard our festivals we need a reliable source of additional income to underpin and invest in them.

I think the time has come for the Scottish Government to take another look at a tourist tax, also snappily known as a Transient Visitor Levy.

It seems that wherever I go abroad I pay a small amount extra on top of hotel costs, often the equivalent of the price of a cup of tea. Tourists are most welcome here but is it too much to ask that they pay a little extra, as we do when we visit their cities, to contribute to the running of the festivals that they enjoy so much? I don’t think so.

I think that the time for a Tourist Tax has come and would urge the Scottish Government to rethink its opposition and implement this.

Paul Eadie is Liberal Democrat councillor in Corstorphine/Murrayfield