SNP hailed for putting tourism tax to bed

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LOTHIANS Tory MSP Gavin Brown today welcomed the Scottish Government “slapping down” city council plans for a bed tax.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing dismissed the idea of taxing visitor accommodation when the issue was raised in the Scottish Parliament.

In answer to a question from Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi, Mr Ewing said there were no existing powers for councils to levy a tourism tax.

He said: “A visitor levy could damage the industry’s competitiveness, especially in the current economic circumstances. Price is a key threat to the competitiveness of the UK and, unfortunately, the UK ranks 135th out of 139 for price competitiveness.

“All but three members of the EU have lowered VAT rates for hotel accommodation, and some for other tourism services.

“The UK VAT rate on hotel accommodation is high, at 20 per cent. Some people would say we have already got a quasi-bed tax and it’s called VAT.”

Mr Brown said: “I welcome the fact the government is stamping down on this proposal.

“Taxing tourists would discourage them from coming to Edinburgh when we want them to come here and help our economy. A bed tax is the very last thing we need.

“When no-one else in the UK is doing it, it sends out the message that Edinburgh is penny-pinching, or pound-pinching.”

Earlier, fellow Lothians Tory MSP David McLetchie was told by Finance Minister John Swinney there were no plans to give councils powers for a bed tax.Mr McLetchie said: “The council should stop wasting time and effort on this proposal.”