'Tourist tax' on Scottish hotels and Airbnb will happen, says government minister

Acrobats from Cirque Berserk perform on the streets of Edinburgh to help launch the Edinburgh Fringe. Credit: PA

The Scottish Government will bring forward proposals that will impose a new "tourist tax" charged onto short-term hotel and Airbnb stays, a government minister has said.

Scotland's Tourism Secretary Fiona Hylsop was asked about the legislation that would see a levy placed on short-term stays - despite refusing to state whether she supported the measures.

Ms Hyslop was quizzed as to whether she supported the tax - which has been agreed by SNP ministers as part of their budget deal with Green MSPs.

Councillors in Edinburgh have already voted in favour of the levy, despite not being able to put the charge in place.

If it were to be implemented, the levy could include a £2-per-night fee added to the price of any room for the first week of a stay.

The tax would apply to all accommodations, including short-term Airbnb stays.

Tory MSP Miles Briggs said Ms Hyslop's support for the change, which could be implemented in Edinburgh and across Scotland, has "been somewhat lukewarm to date".

Mr Briggs quizzed Ms Hyslop about whether she "actually believes a tourist tax is a good idea for Edinburgh and Scotland" given the state of the industry.

Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop has signalled the tax would eventually be levied. Credit: PA

She said talks with the tourism sector and Scottish councils, who would be responsible for raising the charge, showed it was a "really complex" issue.

She told Mr Briggs: “I stand by what we have agreed as part of our budget negotiations.

"Had the Conservatives come to the table in any meaningful shape or form, perhaps the budget discussions might have been difference.

“But we will honour our commitment, there will be an introduction of consultation, followed by legislation.”

She also said that the new levy, which will not be in place before 2021, had not been delayed.

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told her that the SNP/Labour administration in Edinburgh City Council wanted to bring in a tourism levy next year.

Edinburgh Council anticipates that up to £14.6 million could be made for the city's purse every year.

The authority plans to invest the cash into "managing, supporting and increasing tourism in the city," adding that "investment should be targeted at infrastructure and public services improvements.

Ms Dugdale said: “There is widespread support for a tourist tax across Edinburgh, not least from the SNP and Labour council administration.

“The council have actually budgeted for it to be in place next year. In light of the delay she announced last week they will now have to make a further £10 million of cuts to the local budget.”

But Ms Hyslop insisted that “there is no delay” as she said a consultation would take place this year, before a bill is introduced at Holyrood in 2020.

“This is a normal process for a normal piece of legislation going through the Parliament,” the tourism secretary said.

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