Has a bed tax just got closer?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Will a bed tax be introduced in Scotland?

In the Scottish Parliament last Thursday, Richard Leonard MSP asked the First Minister, “Why does the First Minister not agree with Adam McVey, the Scottish National Party leader of the City of Edinburgh Council when it comes to a small tax for tourists? “

At the time, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, replied, “It is not currently Scottish Government policy to have a tourist tax, but of course we will continue to have that discussion and we will continue to consider these matters as we approach our budget this year.” That sounds to be a fairly obvious “kick-it-into-the-long-grass” statement so beloved of politicians. She went on to say “… a responsible Government should responsibly consider the matter and listen to all the arguments before we come to a decision, and that is what we will do.”

She didn’t kick it into the long grass for long. On Monday at the Scottish Tourism Alliance conference she announced that she had ordered a consultation about the tax and said that she wanted the voice of the tourism industry to be heard.

It will be heard but whether politicians will take any notice when money is involved is another matter. These same local politicians who moaned about the negative effect of APD on tourism now seem to want to have a different tax on visitors albeit this tax will have a much smaller impact.  A number have also called on VAT to be reduced so that more tourists will be attracted. But then VAT goes to the Exchequer whereas the bed tax monies will go the councils!

Quite what attitude the SNP government in Holyrood will take is yet to be seen but she also said at the conference that there are no plans to bring in such a tax but in politician’s speak that means that there are no plans at the time she made the speech. Since it won’t be receiving any of the bed tax money it probably won’t be as enthusiastic about introducing any tax. And it wouldn’t be politic to turn around and cut grants to local government knowing that the councils have additional revenue for any bed tax.

I think I am right in saying that every local government in Scotland is eying a bed tax as a way of raising revenue but this time it has been Edinburgh that has been most voluble in pushing for the tax. It wants to charge £2 per night regardless of whether you stay in a B&B or a luxurious hotel suite. Whether this will apply to campsites will be something for the consultation to advise.

Given that every council is in favour it looks as though we visitors and holidaymakers are about to pay more. And if Scotland goes this way I would imagine that councils south of the border will also start asking Westminster, Cardiff and Belfast for the right to introduce similar taxes.

If they do, any further appeals to cut VAT on tourist related products and services will certainly be cold-shouldered by the Treasury.


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