Staycation Scotland: Western Isles plan to impose tax on motorhome and campervan tourists

Those living on the Western Isles are being asked to consider a plan to tax tourists visiting in campervans and motorhomes.

Western Isles residents are being asked to consider a plan to tax tourists visiting the isles in campervans and motorhomes (Photo: Richard Heath).

A Comhairle nan Eilean Siar council spokesperson said the move would see visitors making a "small contribution" towards the upkeep of services they use.

Confirmation of the potential tax comes amid concerns about campervans and motorhomes taking up ferry car deck space and not contributing significantly to the Outer Hebrides economy.

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In the consultation where local residents are invited to participate, the Western Isles council said the Scottish Government and ferry firm CalMac would also be consulted.

Convener Norman Macdonald told the BBC discussions with the local tourism industry would take place first as he said the isles had experienced "significant" numbers of campervans over the summer tourist season.

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Mr Macdonald said: "We are not talking about huge sums of money.

"We just want a contribution towards the infrastructure we, as a council, are required to put in place."

The Scottish Government is putting new legislation in place on a short-term visitor tax named ‘a transient visitor levy’.

This would give local authorities the ability to tax tourists, contributing towards local infrastructure and services. It has been estimated this could generate £5 million to £10m each year, depending on how a scheme was designed.

Through lockdown staycations, the Western Isles have been a popular summer tourism hot spot for people hoping to stay closer to home during the pandemic.

Last summer, the council urged tourists visiting by campervan or caravan to pre-book at an official campsite before travelling.

The local authority's plea came amid calls for greater investment in tourism infrastructure to be made. Communities previously raised concerns about rubbish and human waste being left at roadsides.

In a statement on the issue last year, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said communities had seen an increase in problems with roadside littering and other waste.

A Comhairle spokesperson said: "While the Comhairle's message to campervan and motorhome visitors has, from the outset, been not to visit the Western Isles unless they have a booking at an official camp site, given that facilities and services at camp sites are not open, it is apparent that this is being largely ignored with resultant adverse impacts on the local environment."

In November 2018, the Scottish Government launched a national discussion, engaging with a range of partners and stakeholders from the tourist industry, local authorities and the wider business community.

Evidence collected during the consultation informed development of the proposals around a discretionary local visitor levy.

Only 22 per cent of those answering the question favoured the design of a visitor levy being set out mostly at a national level. However, there was consideration for local discretion.

Between June and October 2019, the Highland Council consulted more than 6,600 Highland residents, businesses and visitors to the region on whether a TVL scheme should be used in the region and how it might be designed.

Members of Highland Council have committed to further pursue a Highland visitor levy.

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