SNP must stop short-changing Edinburgh and let city council bring in a tourist tax sooner than in three years' time – Ian Murray
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I imagine that small bits of feather boas are still floating around the city following the record-breaking Harry Styles’ concerts at Murrayfield. I was fortunate to play in a charity match for Big Hearts at Tynecastle for the UK parliamentary team versus the Scottish Parliament’s side on Monday and the pitch was strewn with feathers. We won 8-1, if anyone is asking.
More than 65,000 fans turned up for the pop star. From the footage I’ve seen, everyone had a blast, and I pay tribute to all those who worked in the city’s pubs and restaurants, on public transport, in the emergency services, and in the street-cleaning teams over what was an extraordinarily busy weekend.
The Murrayfield party didn’t stop after Styles. Tthe legendary Bruce Springsteen graced the home of Scottish rugby this week, and Beyoncé wowed fans earlier this month. It’s not just Murrayfield that’s bringing such vitality to the capital, we had the Edinburgh Marathon Festival over the bank holiday weekend, the final Edinburgh derby of the season, and a steady increase in tourist numbers.
With the sunshine coming out, it feels like summer has arrived, and it won’t be long until the festivals get underway. We should all be incredibly proud that Edinburgh is such a popular place to visit. I am. And all those enjoying themselves at the many recent events are a huge boost for our local economy, supporting thousands of jobs. Our Capital is the driving force of the nation’s economy.
It’s galling, therefore, that Edinburgh City Council is the worst-funded local authority per head by the Scottish Government. That puts immense pressure on city council services for local taxpayers. It’s necessary to strike a balance between the needs of everyone who lives here and those who visit, because maintaining everything people love about Edinburgh comes at a cost.
There is also a growing population – as anyone who has seen the huge volumes of new homes in south-east Edinburgh will know – and increased pressure on services amid the cost-of-living crisis. GP and NHS services are in acute crisis.
The SNP government needs to stop underfunding Edinburgh so that we can invest more in our great city – in our schools, community centres, recreation facilities, and road repairs. Councils need the levers of power to capitalise on the tourism boom so that it can be used to fund even better local services.
One obvious way to do that is a visitor levy, which in Edinburgh could bring in around an extra £35 million a year. It should be up to councils to decide whether they want to introduce a levy or not, and it wouldn’t be right for some, but in Edinburgh there’s a clear case, given the sheer volume of tourists.
The SNP has finally relented and agreed to legislation, but not until 2026 – yet more years of delay when it’s been demanded since 2007. The irony of the SNP refusing to give away powers.
Edinburgh is an amazing city to live in, and an amazing city to visit. With the right support from government, we can ensure there’s a balance so that our city stays popular for visitors who boost our local economy, while also providing the best public services for residents.
Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South