Bill approved

MSPs hand councils power to levy tax on tourists

Edinburgh Festival visitors
Edinburgh will tax tourists who flock to the city each year (pic: Terry Murden)

Councils have been granted the power to introduce a tax on tourists that would raise funding for local visitor facilities and services.

The Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill, approved by parliament on Tuesday, will enable local authorities to apply a levy on overnight stays.

All money raised must be reinvested in services and facilities largely used by tourists and business visitors.

Although the idea drew some criticism, particularly from businesses fearing the additional cost will drive visitors away, similar levies already apply in tourist destinations across Europe, including Amsterdam and Berlin.

Edinburgh is expected to be among the first local authorities to put plans for a tourist tax into effet.

Councils which want to introduce a visitor levy must first consult with communities, businesses and tourism organisations.

An 18-month implementation period will then apply before any local authorities can introduce a visitor levy scheme in their area. This is to provide adequate time for councils and businesses to put in place the systems needed to collect and administer a levy.

A group of representatives from the tourism industry, COSLA and other partners will continue to work together to produce guidance for local authorities putting in place a visitor levy scheme.

Investment Minister Tom Arthur said: “We share a vision with the tourism industry for Scotland to be a global leader in tourism and one of the most economically, environmentally and socially sustainable destinations in the world.

Tom Arthur
Tom Arthur: partnership (pic: Terry Murden)

“A visitor levy can help achieve that vision by empowering councils to raise funding, if they wish to do so, that can be invested in local visitor services and activities.

“This Bill has been a clear example of partnership working between the Scottish Government, local authorities and the tourism industry, in line with the New Deal for Local Government and New Deal for Business.

“We have sought to deliver as much flexibility to local authorities as possible and to listen to businesses to make it as easy as possible for them to adopt these measures.”

Councillor Katie Hagmann, COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, said: “I am extremely pleased that the Visitor Levy Bill has now passed through stage 3 in Parliament. With the introduction of these new Visitor Levy powers, councils across Scotland will have the ability to use a discretionary mechanism, that is firmly based on local flexibility.

“The revenue raised through the introduction of visitor levy powers will be to the mutual benefit of residents, tourists and businesses.”

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