Tourist tax: Edinburgh Council is pressing ahead with its plans - Cammy Day
The scenes in the last ten days from Edinburgh’s response to the death of the Queen were exceptional. And I have no doubt that these stunning images of our city, which were beamed around the world to billions of people, will translate into even more interest in Edinburgh as an incredible place to visit.
This is, of course, hugely welcome – particularly for businesses following the hardship of the pandemic and in the face of steep inflation. But we must acknowledge that spikes in visitor numbers to Edinburgh are not without their challenges. As we all know, the city’s population more than doubles in August during the Festivals, and Hogmanay remains one of the most famous celebrations on the planet.
While we are of course well versed in hosting major events, Edinburgh is a small city. We need to manage how the city’s popularity affects our people and how it impacts our streets. Our economic strength has brought us a great deal of success but, without an additional income stream, we will struggle to manage and support this success in the future.
That’s precisely why we’ve worked so hard to convince the Scottish Government to give us the necessary powers to introduce a visitor levy, or ‘tourist tax’. We’ve led the way in Scotland – and the UK – and I’m pleased, at long last, that the city’s hard work has finally paid off. The First Minister has confirmed that ministers will lay a bill before parliament early next year.
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Tomorrow, I’ll be raising a Motion at Council about the next steps for Edinburgh’s plans. I’m determined to see a system brought forward at the earliest opportunity. Given we face continued cuts from the Scottish Government, I want to make it clear that the funding for Edinburgh’s levy must be in addition to base grants. If my Motion is approved, council officers will engage with Scottish Government officials immediately so that we can bring a timeline forward for our scheme in November. After decades of centralisation, we need to see more powers like these devolved to local government.
Edinburgh is a gateway for tourism to the whole of Scotland and significantly contributes to the nation’s hospitality sector and economy. Sector statistics say that it supports around 30,000 local jobs, with overnight visitors spending over £1.9bn a year in the city. We estimate that a levy could raise in the region of £15m per year – funding which could secure additional resources to invest sustainably in and managing the success of tourism. I want to be clear that these any visitor levy would be for the benefit of all of Edinburgh, not just the city centre.
All the research suggests a small levy would not deter tourists from visiting the Capital. And, when we consulted with residents and businesses – including accommodation providers – 85 per cent had strong support for the levy’s introduction. It is an obvious solution for the council, for our people and for the future of our city and we remain fully committed to working with industry partners to bring forward a scheme that works best for the whole of our Capital city.
Cammy Day is the leader of Edinburgh City Council