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by Louise Wilson
14 October 2020
Highland Council calls for clarity on tourist tax

Increasing pressure on local infrastructure like roads is one of the reasons behind a tourist tax / Shearings Holidays/CC BY 2.0

Highland Council calls for clarity on tourist tax

Highland Council has written to the Scottish Government seeking clarification on the future of a tourist tax.

The Transient Visitor Levy Bill was to be introduced to Parliament at Easter 2020, but was delayed due to coronavirus.

It would have allowed councils to introduce a surcharge for holiday accommodation, which would provide funding to support local infrastructure under pressure from increasing tourist footfall.

Councillor Maxine Smith, who chairs Highland Council’s tourism committee, said the Scottish Government must clarify its long-term position on the matter, after it was excluded from the programme for government in September.

She said: “We are not asking for this to be introduced now or anywhere in the near future – but if we want to be able to invest in tourism infrastructure in many years to come we need to have a means to do this going forward.

 “If tourism wants to continue with its expansion post-COVID, at some point in the future years there needs to be a direct income to allow us to invest massively, whether this is from a tourist tax or a direct fund from either government.”

The levy has faced opposition from some in the tourism industry who are concerned it would deter visitors if their stay becomes more expensive.

Calls to scrap the plans have been renewed since lockdown, after the sector shut down earlier this year. Colliers International, a real estate services company, warned introducing the levy would slow recovery from the pandemic.

Highland Council is also writing to the UK Government calling for a permanent reduction in VAT for the tourism and hospitality sectors to support recovery.

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