Edinburgh venues back tourist tax proposals

Picture: Edinburgh's Usher Hall was one of the venues included in the joint statement.Picture: Edinburgh's Usher Hall was one of the venues included in the joint statement.
Picture: Edinburgh's Usher Hall was one of the venues included in the joint statement.
EDINBURGH'S flagship cultural venues have thrown their weight behind a proposed tourist tax for the city to help offset funding cuts they are being hit with.

Museums, galleries, concert halls and theatres who attract more than six million visitors between them have joined forces to back the idea.

They have spoken out after the new figurehead of Edinburgh’s festivals said she backed the concept of an alternative funding source and called for a “well-informed” public debate on the issue.

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The National Museums and National Galleries, the Filmhouse cinema, and two concert venues - the Usher and Queen’s halls - issued a joint statement today on the “necessity” of a visitor levy despite fierce opposition from the tourism industry.

The Edinburgh Cultural Venues group said its members - who support more than 5000 jobs -were facing “significant” cuts in their public funding following years of standstill support. Both the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council are imposing arts cuts of around three per cent over the next year alone.

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The ECV group warned that its members were already facing significant challenges to maintain and improve venues across the city.

Chair Duncan Hendry said: “Edinburgh’s cultural venues attract huge numbers of visitors to the city throughout the year, for exhibitions, music and theatre performances, films and events.

“They are also key to the success of the city’s festivals. It is imperative that these venues not only have sufficient revenue funding to run their annual programme of activity, but also the funds to maintain their buildings to meet customer expectations.

“It is the belief of all members in Edinburgh Cultural Venues that the cultural offer should be seen holistically and that additional financial support, whether raised through a visitor levy or other means, should be distributed across this essential infrastructure which underpins Edinburgh’s international reputation for culture.

“One of the desires behind creating this collective strategic and working group was to develop ways of working effectively year round with the accommodation and tourism sectors in the city to build on the benefits both sectors can offer each other.”

Earlier this week Julia Amour, the new director of Festivals Edinburgh, spoke out in favour of businesses who benefit from the city’s flagship events paying a contribution. Last year a major study into the long-term future of the festivals warned of the dangers of complacency and the risks of them losing “premier division status” if funding levels could not be maintained.

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The Scottish Tourism Alliance, the main voice of the industry, launched a campaign earlier this year against any new form of taxation being introduced, warning it could “damage” and hinder” the industry.