An in-depth review of business rates, a freeze on tax and a promise to improve public transport were among the pledges made by Scotland’s political parties at a recent tourism event.
Ahead of the Holyrood election on May 5, representatives from the five main parties spoke at a tourism hustings organised by the British Hospitality Association and the Scottish Tourism Alliance to outline their parties’ positions on various industry-related issues.
The Scottish Labour Party pledged £100 million to improve broadband connectivity across Scotland if it gains power at Holyrood, as well as promising a review of non-domestic business rates.
Business rates were also a focus for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who also promised to cut VAT on hotels and visitor attractions, while the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party pledged to freeze tax rates in Scotland and promised there would be no tourism or bed taxes.
The Scottish Green Party said it would improve transportation throughout the country and ensure cleaner and tidier streets, while the SNP pledged a “sensible and moderate approach to tax” and the continuation of the Small Business Bonus Scheme.
As well as general campaign commitments the party representatives were also quizzed on specific issues affecting the industry, including Air Passenger Duty, a bedroom tax and the upcoming EU referendum.
On Air Passenger Duty, the SNP was in favour of abolishing the tax, while the Greens and Tories want to replace APD with different taxes.
Labour and the Lib Dems were both opposed to cutting Air Passenger Duty.
The Tories, Lib Dems and SNP were all opposed to the introduction of a tourism or bed tax, while Labour proposed a tax of £2 per person, per night.
The Green Party said it was in favour of giving local authorities the option of introducing a tax, but “not to prop up cuts in other services”.
On the issue of the EU Referendum on June 23, representatives were asked how leaving the European Union would impact on trade and visitor numbers.
The Tory, Labour, SNP and Lib Dem representatives made it clear they will be voting to stay in the EU, and highlighted staff availability as a key issue that could result from a split from Brussels, as well as the potential “negative message” given to visitors.
The Green Party said that while being outside the EU “would not have an immediate impact on tourism, continued economic divergence could deliver positive or negative impacts”.
Daniel Johnson represented the Scottish Labour Party at the event, with Alex Cole-Hamilton representing the Lib Dems, Murdo Fraser the Tories and Peter Mountford-Smith the Greens. Fergus Ewing spoke for the SNP.