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Highland residents back introduction of ‘tourism tax’

The Highlands could become one of the first areas in Britain to introduce a ‘tourism tax’ after almost three-quarters of residents backed the move.

Councillors met earlier this week (December 9) to push forward with the introduction of a Highland Transient Visitor Levy after a local authority survey found widespread support for the idea.

Highland Council had more than 6,600 responses gathered through online and face-to-face surveys, along with a consultation with the tourism industry and written submissions received from representatives from the tourism industry.

Almost two-thirds (65.1%) of all respondents to the online survey were in favour of a tourism tax, although this varied between businesses, residents and visitors.

More than three-quarters of residents were also in favour.

Overall, more of every group – residents, visitors and businesses – were in favour of the tax than were against.

The Scottish Government has been consulting on the necessary legislation, which will allow councils to introduce a tourism tax.

It is expected that the legislation could be in place by 2021. Councils would then be free to formally introduce levies on visitors.

In January, Edinburgh Council published details of its proposed Transient Visitor Levy (TVL) scheme, which would include a flat £2 per night hotel room charge.

But UKHospitality’s executive director for Scotland, Willie Macleod warned additional taxes will ‘pile more costs on businesses’.

‘A tourist tax will increase costs for customers and reduce choice,’ said Mr Macleod. ‘It will only undermine investment and put jobs at risk. It is not valid to point to European countries as a justification for the tax as those countries have significantly lower rates of VAT. There is no justification for it.

‘The survey carried out by Highland Council was one-sided, opaque and gives no breakdown of who would be responsible for a tax. It contains no mechanism for targeting day-trippers to The Highlands and would only damage business confidence.

‘It is pointless for any local authority in Scotland to be pushing forward with any measures to introduce a tourist tax until we have had clarity from the Scottish Government, anyway. It is disappointing to see the council so easily move towards a measure that will only harm Scotland, and the Highlands’ tourism offer.’

Photo Credit – Free-Photos (Pixabay)

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart

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