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Highland Council gives tourist tax the green light despite hospitality concerns

10 December 2019 by
Highland Council gives tourist tax the green light despite hospitality concerns

Highland Council has given the introduction of a tourist tax the green light claiming it would have a "net benefit" to the area.

The local authority will not be able to implement the tax without legislation from the Scottish government, which closed its own consultation earlier this month.

More than 6,600 people completed Highland Council's own consultation with 65.1% saying they were in favour.

However, hospitality bodies and businesses had objected to the proposal with UKHospitality's executive director for Scotland, Willie Macleod, saying it would pile more costs on businesses and put jobs at risk.

The council has said it would consider how a Transient Visitor Levy (more commonly known as a tourist tax) could be implemented to mitigate negative impacts; including looking to other collection methods than a simple bed tax and ring fencing funds raised for "tourism uses".

In a press release the authority argued the levy would "increase investment in maintaining and enhancing infrastructure used by visitors which will help support local economies, enhance the visitor experience and help Highland tourism become more sustainable".

However, UKHospitality has accused the council of pursuing a measure that will only "harm Scotland, and the Highlands' tourism offer".

Macleod explained: "Additional taxes will only undermine Scotland's, and the Highlands', tourism offer and pile more costs on businesses.

"A tourist tax will increase costs for customers and reduce choice. It will only undermine investment and put jobs at risk. It is not valid to point to European countries as a justification for the tax as those countries have significantly lower rates of VAT. There is no justification for it.

"The survey carried out by Highland Council was one-sided, opaque and gives no breakdown of who would be responsible for a tax. It contains no mechanism for targeting day-trippers to the Highlands and would only damage business confidence.

"It is pointless for any local authority in Scotland to be pushing forward with any measures to introduce a tourist tax until we have had clarity from the Scottish government, anyway."

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