John McLellan: Scottish Government acting strange over tourist tax

Tourists, like these on the Royal Mile, could be a source of extra tax revenue but there are concerns a 'transient visitor levy' might drive them away
Tourists, like these on the Royal Mile, could be a source of extra tax revenue but there are concerns a 'transient visitor levy' might drive them away
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An interesting innovation this week was the announcement of progress with the Scottish Government’s tourist tax consultation, but the development was not the information itself but the fact it came not from the Government but Edinburgh council’s press office.

Promoting the council’s further consultation with tourism businesses into its Transient Visitor Levy concept, a press release revealed that the Scottish Government had confirmed to the council that the timing of its consultation was compatible with local engagement, due to last eight weeks.

It followed a letter from council leader Adam McVey to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in which he sought assurances that the Government’s new commitment to hold a “national conversation” on the issue would be compatible with his process and the release said this “has now been confirmed”.

READ MORE: Tourist tax could raise £2.5m during Edinburgh festivals, say Labour

This was news to the main industry association, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, which knew nothing about it even after the release went out. Only on further enquiry with the Scottish Government did they discover that the Government expects industry round-table discussions to be completed by the end of the year but the schedule hasn’t been agreed.

Council officials believe this means the issue has not been kicked into the long grass, as many insiders believed, but that remains to be seen. There is a difference between a conversation and a consultation to underpin legislation, and if the aim is to persuade the tourism industry that TVL will not harm its members, then this is a strange way to go about it.

READ MORE: Edinburgh tourist tax consultation opens