Outrage over levy lobbying

Councils group COSLA is blasted for its tourist tax proposals

A group representing COSLA met Holyrood’s Culture and Tourism committee this month

Trade group UK Hospitality has blasted COSLA, the association representing Scottish local authorities, over fresh calls for the introduction of ‘transient visitor levies’, or tourist taxes, across Scotland.

Representatives from COSLA presented evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee this month, setting out the case for giving local authorities the power to introduce visitor levies in their areas.

The organisation supports the introduction of levies in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the Highlands and a report published earlier in the year proposed several different models which could be applied to the levy.

The meeting this month was attended by representatives from COSLA, Highland Council, City of Edinburgh Council and Aberdeen City Council.

A written submission to the parliamentary committee ahead of the meeting said: “COSLA’s ask is that local authorities should have the discretion to introduce a Transient Visitor Tax if the circumstances were right for their local area.

“Sustaining tourism alongside the breadth of essential services provided by local authorities is at significant risk without new ways to invest. In the current financial context, we need to be innovative about funding for public services.”

But UK Hospitality’s executive director, Scotland, Willie Macleod, said the trade group is “outraged by the sheer lack of meaningful consultation that has taken place to date”.

“Both individual local authorities and COSLA have singularly failed to listen to the informed views of an industry that understands its consumers,” said Macleod.

“They are ignoring the Scottish Government’s consistently stated position that it has no plans for a tax on tourists and that the interests of the hospitality and tourism industry must fully be taken into account through consultation.

“Hotels and tourist businesses are already major contributors to public funding and there remains a distinct lack of clarity from all local authorities proposing a tax, as to what the money would be spent on and what actual benefits would be delivered.

“The tax is vehemently opposed by a wide spectrum of tourism businesses, not just within the accommodation sector. Their views and opinions have not been heard.”

Giving local authorities the power to introduce transient visitor levies would require a change in legislation. The Scottish Government has so far ruled this out.