Contentious tax should not have been swept through


Just four months after Nicola Sturgeon announced plans for a tourist tax consultation, saying she was “absolutely determined” to ensure the voice of the tourism industry was “properly heard”, and just four working days after that ‘national discussion’ closed, her finance secretary announced plans to give councils powers to introduce such a tax as part of a deal struck with the Greens to pass his Budget.

I’m not quite sure what the Scottish Government’s definition of “properly heard” is. But to have gathered and analysed written submissions and views from six meetings between the national discussion ending on January 25 and the announcement on January 31 is quite a turnaround.

And it is this apparent disregard of the views of those in the industry – and the use of the tourist tax as some sort of political bargaining chip – that has further riled operators and trade groups.

The Scottish Government told SLTN that it will “publish the evidence received in due course”, and that a “formal consultation on the principles of a locally-determined tourist tax will be taken forward in 2019”. Legislation will follow that, meaning it will be next year anyway before such a tax can be implemented.

And it will then be over to councils to decide if and how to implement a levy. What role operators will be expected to play in administering this, not to mention the impact the tax might have on tourism, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, many in this industry will be left wondering when the SNP government is going to start taking the sector seriously.