Trade is braced for storm of regs

Lack of oversight means new laws could overlap

storm clouds on the horizon

By Dave Hunter

A LACK of oversight from the Scottish Government could see hospitality businesses forced to contend with multiple new regulations in a very short frame of time within the next two years.

Upcoming laws including the Scottish Government’s deposit return scheme, local tourist taxes and regulations governing food labelling could all come into force in the first quarter of 2021, leaving operators with a raft of new measures to implement in the space of a few months.

Speaking to SLTN, Willie Macleod, executive director for Scotland at trade group UK Hospitality, said the organisation is “concerned on a number of fronts”.

“There seems to be no overview by the Scottish Government or its agencies on the impact on businesses of a constant stream of new regulatory demands, the timing of their introduction or the ability of businesses – many of which are SMEs – to implement processes and procedures to comply,” said Macleod.

“These will have inevitable impacts, including additional costs and operational challenges, reduced ability to invest in training, tough decisions on staffing levels, declining investment in property and infrastructure.”

The Scottish Government introduced its programme for government for the 2019 to 2020 parliamentary session earlier this month, followed by separate public consultations on the tourist tax and the deposit return scheme.

The legislative programme also included support for the tourism industry – including an additional £3 million for the Rural Infrastructure Fund, £1m to support forest tourism in the south of Scotland and a commitment to launch a new tourism strategy developed in conjunction with the industry.

Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government is “committed to working with the sector to support them through this uncertain time and ensure that they can continue to offer high quality experiences for visitors”.

Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive, Marc Crothall, said the organisation was “most encouraged” to see Holyrood announce support for the tourism industry. However, he was “disappointed” that it was proceeding with tourist tax legislation.

“The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019, published by the World Economic Forum, shows that the UK has now fallen to 140 out of 140 countries on price competitiveness and has dropped from fifth to sixth place in this year’s overall ranking as a result,” said Crothall.

“Conditions cannot show more clearly that this is not the time for local authorities to consider implementing a tourist tax which could seriously impact on Scotland’s attractiveness and positioning within the global market and harm local economies and communities.”

Macleod said UK Hospitality will be writing to local authorities across Scotland “urging them not to introduce [a tourist tax]”.