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Scottish Government Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Government’s plans for a local visitor levy – commonly referred to as a tourist tax – passed its first stage of parliamentary scrutiny on 16th January 2024. This would enable local councils, should they wish to do so, to set a visitor levy on overnight stays to raise funds for tourism facilities and services.

MSPs voted 86-30 to agree to the general principles of the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill. The Bill will now return to committee level where amendments can be taken forward on the proposals at Stage 2. A final vote at Stage 3 is expected around the spring.

Prior to the debate and vote at the Scottish Parliament, the ASSC briefed MSPs on the main priorities from the self-catering sector and this was reflected in many of the contributions.

The Minister for Public Finance Tom Arthur confirmed motorhomes and campervans would be excluded from the levy which the ASSC believes risks exacerbating problems in many communities and would not provide a level playing field for tourist accommodation. However, the Scottish Government remains “open” to hearing amendments at Stage 2 on a cruise ship levy.

Important aspects of the government’s plans remain unknown – for instance, whether the levy would be a flat rate or a percentage of the total overnight accommodation costs. A decision on this will be taken at a later date.

As ever, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers will keep you informed of the latest developments as we engage with the Scottish Government and MSPs on this issue.

Commenting on the visitor levy vote, Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said:

“With the visitor levy proposals, the Scottish Government must ensure history does not repeat itself with the disastrous experience of short-term let licensing. The regulatory cumulative impact could cripple businesses at a time when recovery is precarious and we should be supporting them for a sustainable and prosperous future.

The levy runs the risk of damaging the competitiveness of Scottish tourism at a time when our domestic market remains sluggish. Price sensitive consumers may switch to holiday in York instead of Edinburgh, or the Lake District instead of the Highlands, hitting local economies and communities. These proposals may add more risk and uncertainty to a sector where the domestic market makes up 70% of those holidaying in Scotland.  

Given the challenging circumstances for Scottish tourism – from pandemic recovery, cost of living and STL regulations – now is not the right time.”

Scottish Parliament Official Report

The ASSC provided MSPs with a briefing in advance of a Debate in Parliament on 16th January 2024, which can be seen below.

A summary of the Debate from the Scottish Tourism Alliance can also be seen below.

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