A FORMER justice minister has called for tourists to be taxed so local authorities are not left to foot the bill for major events like Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations.

Kenny MacAskill said the review into local taxation provided an opportunity to give councils the power to levy visitors as many of the world's leading destinations do.

Writing in today's Herald he said it was time "to consider whether those who visit not just those who live in Scotland, should contribute to its events and sights".

His call comes just weeks after Scottish local government was told it was facing a cut of £500milion in the next financial year, on top of financial pressures of the same again.

Councils have also been pushing for powers to raise extra income, with the council tax again frozen.

Mr McMacAskill, an increasingly outspoken SNP figure as he heads towards the political exit in March, said he did not believe tourist or 'bed taxes' were a deterrent to those holidaying in destinations where such schemes were already in lace.

He said: “Ne’erday’s past and the visitors have departed. But, the clearing ups got to be done and it’s the locals not the tourists who are footing the bill. Moneys tight for councils and citizens alike.

"As local taxation is reviewed its time that tourists as well as residents contributed to the cost of events, the upkeep of buildings and the conservation of our pristine scenery. A tourist tax is applied in other cities around the world. The capital and other communities in Scotland should be no different. Visitors not just locals should contribute to the cost of facilities and events.”

Government officials have held a series of meetings about a potential Transient Visitor Levy (TVL) with council counterparts in the capital in recent months.

Scotland's leading academic expert on local government, Professor Richard Kerley, has made similar calls, pointing to its success in France.

But VisitScotland has voiced reservations about the scheme and its potential to deter tourists.

The Commission on Local Tax Reform called last month for the scrapping of council tax, favouring a hybrid replacement but warning of "substantial administrative challenges". All parties are now considering replacement options.

But Cosla, the umbrella body for the majority of Scotland's councils, said local government "should have the power to raise discretionary taxes". It added: "Tourist tax falls into this. There is no point in only having powers for the sake of having powers. We would like to see devolution to councils for democratic decisions on things like this, obviously in consultation with communities."