Helen Martin: Spend tourist tax revenue on us, not the tourists

THE possible introduction of tourism tax may not be quite as controversial as the creation of a tram system was in Edinburgh (and still is now that we're on the brink of an extension).

Monday, 17th September 2018, 6:00 am
Edinburgh is a magnet for tourists. Picture: Toby Williams
Edinburgh is a magnet for tourists. Picture: Toby Williams

THE possible introduction of tourism tax may not be quite as controversial as the creation of a tram system was in Edinburgh (and still is now that we’re on the brink of an extension).

But an extra £1 a night charge for accommodation is certainly a hot issue beset by disagreement between the government, the council, political parties and, needless to say, the tourist industry.

Now we know that 92 per cent of visitors don’t see any problem with stumping up £1 a night, those who still argue against it seem to be putting up nonsensical tribal tantrums. There is no risk of the tax damaging the tourist industry and income. It certainly doesn’t stop us from holidaying in the rest of Europe where such tax is the norm, so why would it cut the level of tourists coming here?

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We have architecture, a palace, a castle, history, a parliament, a beach, a zoo, galleries, museums, botanical gardens, a broad range of restaurants from cheap take-aways to fine dining, and a plethora of entertainment, culture, concerts and public celebrations. According to meteorological predictions, we might also be destined for hot summers.

What we don’t have is the money to cope with the extra costs of accommodating such a high volume of visitors . . . a thriving industry but one from which most of us don’t get a penny, and which can adversely affect our day to day life in peak season.

While the government, the council, political parties and the industry are all keen to put forward their own for and against arguments, none of them seem to realise that the most important opinion is that of Edinburgh citizens and rate-payers.

And that is particularly crucial when it comes to deciding how the revenue that comes in from a potential tourist tax is spent.

The industry, including Marketing Edinburgh, says the money should go towards further investment in tourism to increase numbers and to help the council pay the extra costs incurred by intense over-crowding in the city.

That is confirming the fear of 13 per cent of residents who felt locals would not benefit from the money or that it would not be wisely spent. Personally, I believe that percentage is much higher.

Instead of addressing desperate structural and welfare shortages and lack of benefits we suffer from the council budget, the very idea of a tourism tax being spent on boosting tourism is crazy. Why aren’t those who commercially gain from tourism responsible for paying the costs of it?

We blunder and crunch over pot-holes and protruding metal covers in our roads; charges for waste collection are already at the thin end of the wedge, we are woefully short of people, systems and social work when it comes to care of the elderly, and extra “taxes” on us, the residents, continue to rise whether it’s via parking fees, garden refuse, council tax or anything else.

At this point in the council’s economic failure, any new source of income must be spent on local people and their needs and doing everything possible to reduce or reverse cut-backs.

Otherwise the council and the government are serving themselves, their egos, and their pompous “business” ideas. They are not listening to and serving the people they are elected and paid to represent.

Cashless society comes at a cost

WITH nearly one ATM disappearing every day in Scotland leaving us less than 6000, small villages and towns are suffering. And eventually that means many small shops and businesses in Edinburgh are also at risk.

As in more remote communities, we also have shops who can only deal in cash. Today they survive because, perhaps just a short walk away, customers can use a cash-point.

Card payment companies and the issue of card processors impose significant charges on traders. And if we reach the stage where all customers have to pay by card, it’s predicted that these companies will up their take from shopkeepers putting several out of business. Along with bank branch closures, we’re in trouble. Cash is worth money.

Total mesh ban not that simple

MANY years ago, I had a mesh implant. It needed adjustment over a decade later. Now there’s a ban on transvaginal mesh implants, but not on others such as transabdominals despite that being listed as a cause of death for 75-year-old Eileen Baxter from Loanhead.

One problem now is that campaigners are calling for a total ban on mesh products. It’s not that simple.

My recent breast cancer op and initial step to reconstruction also involved a synthetic mesh support . . . a fine and strong but almost weightless, floaty type involving titanium.

Mesh isn’t the problem. It is the type of mesh, the material involved. So “mesh” isn’t necessarily evil. Anyone offered such an implant as part of treatment shouldn’t scream in horror before their surgeon explains the detail.

Cage and starve Staffie abusers

TWO emaciated Staffie dogs were abandoned by a man on the south side of the city on August 23, then fortunately cared for by the SSPCA. Ten days later, police in West Lothian found an abandoned male Staffie-cross in Bathgate, emaciated, with cuts and untreated abscesses and barely able to walk. He had to be put down.

The responsible humans – if found - could be banned from keeping animals. I’d have them caged and starved in prison.