Euan McGrory: Tourist tax should support local services

Tourists on the Royal Mile.
Tourists on the Royal Mile.
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The idea that a “tourist tax” might soon be introduced strikes me as good news for Edinburgh.

This is far from a universal view but it is one that apears to be gaining ground all the time. The biggest objections come from hotel operators who say that they would be paying an unfair rate of tax compared to other businesses and to their counterparts in other parts of the world.

It is a reasonable point when you consider the proposed Edinburgh levy would come on top of VAT and other taxes. However, hotels in other tourist hot spots, such as Rome, pay similar overall rates. And the charge would presumably be passed on to visitors who are unlikely to be deterred by a modest charge.

The city’s argument rests largely on the idea that we should be treated as a special case given the growth of the tourist industry in recent years. That’s not to say other cities could not follow suit, but the impact that the massive influx of visitors has on our public services has to be addressed. That seems to me a powerful argument.

You only have to look at the way in which bins are overflowing just now - and imagine what they might be like in August - to get an idea of how basic services struggle to cope with the increased demand.