Small businesses oppose Edinburgh tourist tax

The proposal for an Edinburgh tourist tax has divided opinion. Picture: JP
The proposal for an Edinburgh tourist tax has divided opinion. Picture: JP
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A CLEAR majority of small businesses in Edinburgh are opposed to the introduction of a tourist tax, a new survey claims today.

The Federation of Small Businesses asked its members in the Capital for their views on the idea of a visitor levy and 76 per cent said they were against with 24 per cent in favour.

The figures suggest a hardening of opposition among FSB member since a similar survey two years ago which found 61 per cent against and 39 per cent in favour.

Janet Torley, FSB area leader for the East of Scotland, said: “This is a wake-up call for the City of Edinburgh Council, signalling that its plans to introduce a tourism tax in the city are unwanted and potentially damaging.

“Despite the caution which the Scottish Government has urged over this tax, the city council has pressed ahead with the development of a ‘business case’ for its introduction. Now it is clear that the overwhelming opinion of local businesses is ‘no’.

“Edinburgh is at the very heart of Scotland’s tourist industry. If we tax tourists out of Edinburgh, then we risk taxing them out of Scotland, damaging the prospects of small local businesses throughout Scotland and threatening jobs.

“Edinburgh must value its tourists, not price them out.

“At a time when the council is working hard to harness the economic potential of new direct air services linking the capital to China, it is ironic that it seems to be carrying on regardless with plans to penalise these tourists and local accommodation providers.

A total of 124 FSB members out of 1700 responded to the survey, almost 80 per cent of them tourism-related firms.

Some 67 per cent said they believed a tourist tax would have a negative impact on their business and 73 per cent said it would have a negative impact on the local economy.

Edinburgh’s ruling SNP-Labour coalition has pledged to bring in a tourist tax - which could the form of a nightly £1 levy on hotel bills - but so far the Scottish Government has refused to give councils the power to introduce such a tax.

A £1 levy is projected to bring in around £15 million a year, which could be earmarked to help fund the festivals and other events or maintain key infrastructure used by visitors ad well as residents.
Council leader Adam McVey has argued a tourist tax would provide vital investment.

“With an appropriate level of funding in place, Edinburgh would be in the position to afford global destination marketing campaigns, protect and build on our cultural and heritage offering, support existing festivals, and create new events to entice visitors into the city all year round.”