Edinburgh council looks at where it would spend revenue from the proposed tourist tax

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Cleansing and public space improvements among suggested priorities

Waste, cleansing and improvements to public areas and greenspaces have been proposed as the top priorities to be funded by Edinburgh’s planned tourist tax.

The Capital looks set to become the first city in the UK to introduce a tax on overnight visitors once the necessary legislation is passed at Holyrood. And council officials have drawn up a list of the areas where they suggest the revenue would best be directed.

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The council has already agreed plans for a £2 per person per night levy, capped at seven nights, on all paid accommodation apart from campsites. A report to Tuesday’s meeting of the policy and sustainability committee says the new tax could raise between £5 million and £35 million a year, depending on the final model agreed.

The report presents an “initial list of key thematic areas” as the priorities for the revenue raised. It adds: “This list would be used as the basis for further internal and external engagement with stakeholders and members.”

The priorities are: 1 – Public realm: Waste, cleansing, and greenspace; 2 – Mobility: addressing congestion, invest in public routes and travel system and services; 3 – Capital investment in city infrastructure: capitalise revenue and invest in limited number of large scale capital projects in the city; 4 – Destination Promotion: invest in focussed promotion of Edinburgh including encouraging visitor dispersal out of the city centre; 5 – Visitor data and analytics: investment in the processing and monitoring of Edinburgh visitor data, improving accessibility and distribution; 6 – Cultural activity and infrastructure: invest in supporting and increasing Edinburgh’s cultural or event capacity, activity and infrastructure.

Officials say they will now develop the options, take forward engagement and review data in the wake of Covid and new investment in hotels and other accommodation in order to support a “refreshed robust business case”.

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A consultation held in 2018 saw 90 per cent of city residents who responded backing the scheme, along with a large number of accommodation providers and businesses, although others in the sector remain hostile.

Edinburgh looks set to become the first UK city to introduce a tourist tax.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson.Edinburgh looks set to become the first UK city to introduce a tourist tax.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
Edinburgh looks set to become the first UK city to introduce a tourist tax. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

The legislation allowing local authorities to introduce a tourist tax – delayed because of the pandemic – is expected to be laid before the Scottish Parliament early next year. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised the Local Visitor Levy Bill when she announced her programme for government in September.

Writing in the Evening News soon afterwards, council leader Cammy Day welcomed the move, which Edinburgh had long campaigned for. He wrote of the Capital’s popularity and said: “Our economic strength has brought us a great deal of success but, without an additional income stream, we will struggle to manage and support this success in the future. That's precisely why we've worked so hard to convince the Scottish Government to give us the necessary powers to introduce a visitor levy, or 'tourist tax'. We've led the way in Scotland – and the UK – and I'm pleased, at long last, that the city's hard work has finally paid off.”

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