Tourist tax consultation sees two public sessions in Edinburgh next week

THE Scottish Government will hold two public information sessions in Edinburgh next week as part of its consultation on a tourist tax.

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 6:40 pm
Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes is encouraging people to go to the information sessions.
Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes is encouraging people to go to the information sessions.

A Bill is due to be introduced in the Scottish Parliament next year to give local authorities the power to apply a levy on overnight visitor stays. The decision to implement such a levy would be entirely up to councils and the money raised would be retained by the council to fund tourism-related spending.

But the consultation paper does float the idea of also taxing pedestrian access to certain streets, as well as cruise ship passengers, motorhome drivers and rough campers.

The information sessions - both on Thursday at Edinburgh College’s Sighthill campus - are the first in a series to be held across Scotland. Edinburgh has proposed a tax of £2 per night for up to seven nights, which could raise up to £14.6m a year.

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Edinburgh has proposed a tax of 2 per room per night, which could bring in up to 14.6 million for the city.

A consultation conducted by the city council last year drew over 2500 responses with 85 per cent in favour of the tax.

And a survey commissioned by Marketing Edinburgh found 88 per cent of summer tourists and 82 per cent of off-peak visitors said a £2-a-night charge would not stop them coming to the Capital.

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The Edinburgh Hotels Association, however, has argued a tourist tax would put jobs at risk and damage the city’s reputation.

Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government is committed to devolving more power to local authorities as well as taking steps to safeguard the future of Scotland’s vibrant tourism industry.

“That is why we are looking for views from members of the public as well as industry on the principles of a transient visitor levy.

“This will not be a national tax and it will be for individual local authorities to decide whether or not to apply a visitor levy if they consider it appropriate for the local community.

“Money raised by those local authorities who introduce a levy will be retained by them to invest in local tourism activity, helping to safeguard the sustainability of the industry.

“I would encourage as many people as possible in Edinburgh to attend the information sessions and respond to the consultation to ensure the legislation strengthens local decision making and enhances tourism across Scotland.”

The government consultation closes on December 2 and an independent analysis of the responses will be published in early 2020.

The information sessions - at 2pm and 6pm - will include a presentation by Scottish Government officials and a chance to ask questions. They are free but limited by venue capacity. To guarantee a space people can register on Eventbrite or call 0131 244 0673.