Readers' Letters: Let's be honest and call out 'tourist tax' for what it is

The term ‘Tourist Tax’ is a deliberately misleading misnomer, suggests reader

Is it not time we stopped calling the “Tourist Tax” that and started describing it as what it really is, a tax on anyone who stays overnight in a council area applying the tax (your report, 27 May)?

The last visitor survey by Visit Scotland, 2023’s Domestic Overnight Tourism, states: “Domestic overnight tourism holiday trips accounted for just over one third of total trips, 42 per cent of total and 41 per cent of spend.” This means that the majority of overnight trips, for any other reason, including business reasons, will fall liable for the tax.

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The impression given by the Scottish Government is that the “Tourist Tax” will apply only to visitors, probably from abroad, who won’t mind paying the tax “and, by the way, it’s not our fault as it is strapped-for-cash councils who will make the final decision”.

A tax on overnight stays would affect all visitors to places where it is imposed, not just tourists, says reader (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)A tax on overnight stays would affect all visitors to places where it is imposed, not just tourists, says reader (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
A tax on overnight stays would affect all visitors to places where it is imposed, not just tourists, says reader (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

Running a business that regularly involves overnight stays in the Outer Hebrides, this is just another travel tax on an already very expensive area to do business in once flights and accommodation are taken into consideration.

Please, let’s at least call it a “Travel Tax”, which is what it will be, rather than a “Tourist Tax”, which it is not.

Gordon Steele, Gifford, East Lothian

Patriot dreams

I’m not to know if Doug Morrison is a British patriot when he asks a Nationalist to define independence (Letters, 27 May) but Chambers dictionary defines a patriot as: “A person who truly, though sometimes unquestioningly, loves and serves his or her country.”

Unfortunately, Donald Trump has rather debased the term but when it comes to patriotism I’m in the late Margo MacDonald camp of Scottish patriots.

When asked why she supported independence her response was that she had always felt Scottish and wondered why any Scot would claim nationhood without sovereignty. Margo’s nationalism was about who she was.

Is patriotism any different from national identity? Well, if it’s the identity of the citizens of a country with its historical and cultural traditions, moral values, ideals, beliefs, national sovereignty, and so on, being British is maybe no more complicated than that – or is it?

Clearly Scottish identity is different from British identity and given the evidence that the two cultures are on a divergent path with the Brexit vote, the fat-cat dimension of market economics that drives the inanity of privatised utilities spewing sewage all across England’s green and pleasant land, and the rejection of Tory governments since 1955, it’s merely a matter of time before the parting of the ways.

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An independent Scotland is just what Scottish patriots crave. An opportunity to make our own calls on the priorities for our society, to tax and spend so as to address the pressures our society faces.

The British patriot, on the other hand, is unequivocal in his/her commitment to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Scotland’s material concerns are irrelevant.

Doug should note that there is increasing restlessness that our beautiful landscapes in the Highlands and Islands are being traduced by strings of 60m high pylons, Stalag Luft lookalike battery farms and massive substations so that our country, which is now self sufficient in green energy (depending on your source), sends the stuff south of the Borders in the pursuit of England’s net zero targets and the interests of shareholders of foreign-owned companies. Yea Doug, we could have a very thriving economy if only we had independence.

Oh and by the way, the people of Scotland and the SNP are not the same thing.

Iain Bruce, Nairn, Highland

VAT challenges

With an election looming large and the Labour Party being tipped to win. I wonder if Labour have truly given consideration to imposing VAT on Independent schools, setting aside the positive arguments that have already been raised.

For example: The sector contributes half a billion pounds each year to the Scottish economy.

Independent schools support almost 12,000 jobs in Scotland.

The sector brings in £38 million in international exports.

More than 100,000 people who don't attend independent schools benefit from the partnerships with them.

Edinburgh in particular will be compromised and I can only hope that Edinburgh Council have ensured some provision has been considered to cater for those children that will have little choice but to tip over into the state sector.

Clare Chalmers, Penicuik, Midlothian

Gone to pot

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As a very keen gardener all my life, and with the gardening year now in full swing and the yearly RHS Chelsea flower show having just finished, the following matter is in urgent need of some attention.

Having spoken with owners of garden centres I frequent on a regular basis and been in contact with a number of professional gardeners, including those who are television celebrities, I have found almost all in agreement that an urgent change is needed in the use of so much plastic in the horticultural industry, for example, in the making of plant pots which, after use, more than likely end up in the ever-increasing mountain of waste in the local dump.

It is time to put the gardening world's house in order and for the likes of the Royal Horticultural Society, for the sake of their green credentials and the planet, and all others of influence who can effect a change, both in the industry and with the general public, to promote with real intent, biodegradable as the only option.

Neil McKinnon, Glenalmond, Perthshire

Down for count

Since 1950, the population of Scotland has hovered around 5 million, while that of the UK has risen from 50 to 67 million, and perhaps even more from unaccounted immigration.

Why has the population of our large and enterprising country remained so static?

Malcolm Parkin, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Breathe easier

As parents, we strongly support the Edinburgh low emission zone (LEZ) as an important step towards the transformative, just policymaking our communities urgently need.

Air pollution is a human rights violation, killing 1,200 under-18s annually in Europe and causing seven million premature deaths globally every year; 36,000 in the UK.

It is 11 years since the tragic death of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in London, and five years since a landmark coroner’s case found air pollution contributed to her death. Deprived communities are especially vulnerable, and one in five children in Edinburgh lives in relative poverty. LEZs successfully reduce air pollution, and show numerous health benefits.

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This is part of a much bigger question: whether our world is fit for purpose, never mind what we are “gifting” future generations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that global warming must be capped at 1.5C to avoid serious harm to current and future generations. Yet even if governments meet their own 2030 targets, warming could still be between 2.4 and 2.8C, according to Climate Action Tracker.

Real, urgent change – with imaginative, compassionate rethinking of all our systems – can safeguard children as part of what they deserve: a present and a future to flourish in.

That means green, connected, welcoming cities: safely accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users. It means clean air; affordable, joined-up public transport; and plentiful outdoor space. All these make adults happier and healthier too.

As we campaign in Edinburgh alongside parents internationally, we are concerned by steps back (such as reopening the Braid Estate to traffic) but encouraged by key steps forward, including LEZs. For inspiration, policymakers might look to Paris, which is planning to be Europe’s greenest city by 2030, or Slovenian capital Ljubljana, which committed to its car-free city centre back in 2007, and is now vibrant and booming.

Elizabeth Cripps, Ruth Findlay, Katie Gerardot, Parents for Future Scotland, Edinburgh

Good riddance

Plans to introduce a Workplace Parking Levy in Edinburgh have been shelved by the council (your report, 25 May). Councillors have been considering this since 2022 in a blatant war on motorists. The proposal was to charge businesses with private parking spaces as much as £650 per year per space but the majority of businesses said that they could not afford this and would have to pass it on to the employee plus 20 per cent VAT.

Edinburgh Council and every council in Scotland has thousands of private parking spaces, with privileged parking for the bosses. Edinburgh University and other universities and colleges in Scotland have thousands of private parking spaces for staff and students. Strange that parking charges have never been introduced for these people when NHS staff have to pay to park at work.

This proposal by Edinburgh City councillors for a Workplace Parking Levy was never about saving the planet, but the £12 million a year it would raise for their numerous and costly pet projects.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Vote for Chief

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Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell spoke at the centenary conference of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, and in her speech said: “We must focus intently on our core duties and what matters to the people we serve.”

She might make a good Prime Minister.

Brian Laughland, Edinburgh

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