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Tourist tax: Day visitors to Edinburgh could also face levy

A Scottish Government consultation has been launched on plans to give councils new tax powers.

Edinburgh: Paper concedes it would be difficult to identify day visitors.
Edinburgh: Paper concedes it would be difficult to identify day visitors.

Day visitors to Edinburgh could find themselves paying a tourist tax under plans raised in a Scottish Government consultation.

In February, city councillors approved plans for the transient visitor levy (TVL) including a £2 per night room charge, capped after a stay of seven consecutive nights.

However, a new consultation from the government which opened on Monday raises questions about whether such a levy could be imposed on “day visitors to a local authority area”.

The document highlights how a levy on overnight visitors staying in accommodation would not apply to those who use local services and facilities such as roads, parks, toilets, parking and public attractions.

In its programme for government announced at the start of the month, Scottish ministers confirmed they would be pressing ahead with plans to give councils the option to introduce the tax if they wish.

The TVL, which it is hoped will raise up to £14.6m a year in Edinburgh to invest back into the city, also does not apply to campsites.

There has been “significant growth” in overnight and day visitors in parts of Scotland, including in its capital, the consultation paper notes.

Around 138 million trips were made by day visitors across Scotland in 2018, spending almost £5.5bn, while in 2017, Edinburgh and Glasgow received around 20 million day visitors.

But the document concedes that while there are “strong arguments in favour of taxing day visitors”, it was difficult to see how the tax “could actually be applied and collected in a practical manner and in a way that distinguished between local residents and visitors”.

The paper went on: “Could a levy on day visitors be collected at the entry points to a particular area – for example pedestrian access to certain streets or at tolls to certain roads?

“Other alternatives suggested… included applying a tax to goods and services used by day visitors such as restaurants or taxis.

“In all such circumstances, the challenge would be distinguishing day visitors from overnight visitors and local residents.”

Other groups highlighted by the government include “cruise ship visitors who disembark for a day” and those “wild or rough camping, including motorhomes or caravans parked and occupied overnight in places that are not formal campsites or parking places”.

In a foreword to the consultation, public finance minister Kate Forbes said: “There are some important choices to make, especially in relation to the balance between national consistency and local autonomy.

“As we envisage the levy would be collected by accommodation providers, this consultation seeks views on how the impact on individual businesses might be minimised.

“There are further considerations explored, including the potential to extend the levy to other visitor activities, ensuring appropriate exemptions from the levy are implemented throughout Scotland and ensuring that the tourist industry is engaged in decisions about applying the levy and how revenues can be spent to further support the tourism industry.”

The Scottish Government’s consultation closes on December 2.

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