Local council rejects idea of tourist tax

Councillor Mark Rowley
Councillor Mark Rowley

Local Democracy Service

In October 2018, Holyrood First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ordered a consultation with local authorities following vocal support for a levy on tourist accommodation by some councils.

Edinburgh City Council is keen on introducing a tourist tax, proposing a £2 bedroom charge on hotels, hostels and short-term lets, which could generate around an extra £11m a year.

However, Scottish Borders Council has taken the opposite view and councillors at last week’s executive meeting voted unanimously to notify Holyrood of their opposition to a tourist tax.

Council leader Shona Haslam said “I am extremely concerned about the focus on transient visitor tax, which is against CoSLA’s position on local taxation.

“I’m pleased that this council is taking this position on a tax which places a heavy burden on providers of accommodation and the tourists using that accommodation, rather than answering the bigger issue of local funding in Scotland moving forward.”

The proposed response was drafted by Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, who said: “Any discussion about empowering local authorities to raise taxes locally, including transient visitor tax, should be seen as a strand of a wider discussion about the adequacy of the resources and the lack of fiscal powers available to councils in undertaking the broad range of functions for which they are responsible.

“The council has no plans to pursue a transient visitor tax within the Scottish Borders Council area. The council considers that to do so would have a negative impact on the number and expenditure of visitors in the area.”

“The council has concerns that a transient visitor tax may exacerbate the existing concentration of visitors and spend in Scotland.

“Such an approach would appear to run counter to the principles of inclusive economic growth and self-defeating in providing new and improved facilities to draw yet more visitors to those areas with the greatest concentrations of visitors and spend already.”