Will tourist tax have same effect on tourists as plastic bag tax had on bags? – Alastair Stewart

Will a tourist tax drive away visitors to Edinburgh? (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
Will a tourist tax drive away visitors to Edinburgh? (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
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I swore I’d never shop again when the 5p bag charge was introduced in 2014, but, ahoy, my waistline tells a different story.

My objection was where I thought the money was actually going – the state’s coffers.

But then I found out that while it technically belongs to businesses with VAT charges and reasonable cost deductions, the Scottish Government encourages the millions of surplus sums to go to good causes.

The scheme has not only saved millions of tonnes in plastic but generated millions in charitable funds.

It’s been a massive success, but ironically, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) reports that the amount raised for charity fell from £15.9 million to £14.7m in 2018 because people are buying fewer bags.

READ MORE: Edinburgh councillors back plans to introduce a £2-a-night tourist tax

So one would think that a tourist tax in Edinburgh had a point beyond a grubby cash grab.

The proposals, yet to be approved by the Scottish Parliament, indulge the old adage that tourists must have cash to spare.

But not everyone who visits Edinburgh is wealthy, and prices for accommodation and hospitality are steep enough as it is.

For decades, the Royal Family has been said to be a tourist honeypot, but the formula to calculate this goldmine has been less than concrete and again the case is true here.

Edinburgh City Council’s proposed ‘tourist tax’ includes a £2-per-night charge added to the price of any room for the first week of a stay.

It would apply to all accommodation, significantly including short-term Airbnb rentals.

READ MORE: ‘About time!’ – Edinburgh reacts to proposed £2-a-night tourist tax

However, why stop there? Why not include all food and beverages sold during hotspot seasons like the Festival?

If a tax, like for carrier bags, is meant to deter an action, is Edinburgh Council wanting to stop people visiting the city?

Or, presuming they don’t, will there be committed legislation mandating which tourist and hospitality projects will benefit from this fresh investment?

Everyone knows the city loves to complain about peak tourist periods, but do we really want to stigmatise those who visit our home?