Tourist tax sent to bed without tea

Fiona Hyslop ruled the imposition of a tourist tax 18 months ago. Picture: John Devlin
Fiona Hyslop ruled the imposition of a tourist tax 18 months ago. Picture: John Devlin
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Only days after loyally praising the Scottish Government’s budget, City Council leader Adam McVey has had his plans for a tourist tax slapped down by his political masters. That’s the thanks you get…

There was no official announcement, but the British Hospitality Association issued a statement just before the break to confirm the idea has been blocked. It’s not that surprising, given ministers have repeatedly voiced opposition to the tax and a change of tack would have taken some explaining.

Only 18 months ago Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, pictured, said: “I agree with the cultural sector we need more investment to help support the infrastructure in our cities, of course we do, but there are smart ways of doing it… but do it in a way which doesn’t hammer the tourism industry.” Nothing has changed materially since then, yet SNP councillors pressed on and for something apparently central to the coalition’s plans the wheels have come off remarkably quickly.

Much was made of an apparently formal approach to London Mayor Sadiq Khan which Labour leader Cammy Day claimed to have been made to produce a formal joint tourism tax plan, but after an official question by my colleague Graham Hutchison at the last council meeting, this proved to be untrue.

Personally speaking, there is merit in a properly-planned scheme in which revenue is ring-fenced and not deducted from other council revenues, but the council leadership didn’t even get as far as to produce a coherent scheme which could be properly debated.