Calls to axe new tax over fears it may ‘discourage tourists’

Tourism i a major part of the city's economy. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Tourism i a major part of the city's economy. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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CONTROVERSIAL plans to introduce a “bed tax” for visitors to Scotland to help pay for major events look set to be scuppered due to fierce opposition from the tourism industry and a lack of Scottish Government support.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance, the main voice of the industry, is to campaign against the move, saying it “risks discouraging tourists” from visiting Scotland.

A tourist tax would simply add further expense for the visitor coming to Scotland


And tourism agency Visit­Scotland has said a visitor ­tax – which the government insists it has no plans to introduce – could “damage” and “hinder” one of Scotland’s best-performing industries.

However, council leaders in Edinburgh have stepped up efforts to win backing for a tax or levy as they strive to make £141 million in savings.

The latest proposal, which would see an extra charge added to bills, would help meet the costs of staging events such as the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Festival and the city’s Hogmanay celebrations, and reduce the impact on the public purse.

A major study on the future of Edinburgh’s main festivals, published last May, warned that they risked losing their “premier division status” if levels of funding could not be maintained in future. Consultants behind the Thundering Hooves study said “new thinking and innovative solutions” were needed to break a long-term stalemate over alternative funding mechanisms.

However the Scottish Tourism Alliance, which represents more than 250 businesses and organisations, said an additional tax burden would not be “sensible” when Scotland was “already increasingly challenged to remain competitive as a destination.”

Chair Stephen Leckie said: “The reason we continue to resist any kind of tourist tax is we feel the industry is already taxed enough.

“We are already contributing a huge amount to the economy. It is too easy to take a swipe at us. Scotland is already an expensive place to come and visit because of the value of the euro at present. A tourist tax would simply add further expense for the visitor coming here.”

A spokeswoman for Visit­Scotland said: “Value for money is one of the key factors which consumers consider when making choices about their leisure or business trips.

“It is imperative that we’re doing everything in our power to ensure that Scotland is an economically viable tourism destination and continues to sit high on the agenda when choosing a holiday.

“There are concerns a tourism tax could hinder our tourism growth and damage one of Scotland’s most successful areas of economic activity.”

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “We are continuing our discussions with the UK and Scottish governments to further develop our proposals for a city deal.

“These proposals have been shaped around a vision which sees Edinburgh and the region’s cultural offering at its heart and we are keen to explore additional means to raise revenue to protect our cultural competitiveness.

“We hope to make significant progress towards agreeing a deal over the coming weeks.”

However, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have no plans for a bed tax or tourism levy.”