Call to scrap tourist tax poll

Capital consultation ‘not fit for purpose’, say trade groups

Fireworks over Edinburgh castle
A tourist tax could be introduced in the city.

A CONSULTATION on implementing a proposed tourist tax in Edinburgh should be shelved immediately because it is “not fit for purpose”, trade groups have said.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance and UK Hospitality have written to City of Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey and chief executive Andrew Kerr expressing what they describe as “significant concerns” about the “biased nature” of the transient visitor levy (TVL) consultation, which opened on October 15 and is set to close on December 10.

Trade groups say the consultation on a suggested charge of either 2% or £2 per room per night – which would be charged all year round on all forms of accommodation for the first seven nights of a stay – doesn’t give those against a TVL the opportunity to register their opposition. Other criticisms of the survey include that it “neglects to seek alternative views about how revenue could be raised” and “fails to inform respondents of the contributions of millions of pounds by the tourism and hospitality sectors… through business rates and employment”.

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In a statement, the trade groups said “no effort has been made by Edinburgh Council to explain the impact of the UK VAT regime to respondents, which drives UK hotel day rates to a significantly higher level than Scotland’s international comparators”.

“A request has been made by the organisations that the consultation ceases as soon as possible, particularly in light of the Scottish Government’s own proposals to consult with local authorities and industry as to whether a TVL approach should be considered at all,” the groups said.

Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey said he is “surprised and disappointed” by the groups’ position.

“We offered them every opportunity to work with us to help shape the consultation but they have consistently refused to engage with us,” he said.

“Our online survey is comprehensive, covering all aspects of a potential scheme, and respondents are specifically asked twice on how supportive – or otherwise – they are of our plans. At both points, and elsewhere, the survey provides text boxes allowing for fuller responses.”

The implementation of a tourist tax would require an act of parliament to give local authorities additional revenue-raising powers; councils’ group COSLA has argued for local authorities to be granted those powers.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has said there are plans to consult on a tourist tax.

UK Hospitality has warned that a TVL could cost the Scottish economy £175 million.