Gordon Henderson: Tourism bed tax question needs put to rest

What now for Edinburgh's tourism industry after Brexit? Picture: Greg Macvean
What now for Edinburgh's tourism industry after Brexit? Picture: Greg Macvean
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At a time of economic uncertainty in the wake of Brexit, Gordon Henderson hails the decision to take the tourism bed tax off the agenda

The fallout from the European referendum vote and what it means for all of us is still being worked out – and I’m sure that process will involve a great deal of further debate. Indeed, it looks like here in Scotland we could face the prospect of a second independence referendum within two years.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the UK Government for clarity on what the Brexit decision now means for businesses, including how they will have access to the single European market and the free movement of people and trade. The UK’s businesses now need a period of economic stability to allow them to get on with creating jobs and local prosperity.

One sector working very hard to calculate what the impact of the Brexit decision will be is tourism – they’ll be keeping a close eye on the relative strength of the pound against other currencies and what’s happening to the free movement of seasonal labour.

But one thing on which they do now have some clarity is the question of the “tourism bed tax”.

Advocated by Edinburgh City Council members, among others, this would have seen an additional nightly charge levied on all visitors’ hotel and other accommodation bills.

While some politicians believe that a tourism bed tax would relieve pressure on council services, enabling them to invest more in the visitor economy, FSB members think that they would be playing with fire. Indeed, FSB research revealed that 82 per cebt of Scottish businesses from all sectors across the country were against it.

While acknowledging that more investment is required to support tourism infrastructure, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Fiona Hyslop MSP, has said that this proposed tax doesn’t make sense and that smarter alternatives must be found.

It’s really encouraging that the Scottish Government has listened to the arguments put forward by FSB – and backed by the Scottish Tourism Alliance and British Hospitality Association – against the introduction of this new tax.

At a time when there are loud calls for clarity on what the recent Brexit vote means for all of us, for businesses, and visitors who support our £9.7 billion tourism industry, FSB campaigning has delivered a clear win.

• Gordon Henderson is senior development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses