SUPPORT for a controversial 'tourist tax' in Edinburgh is surging among residents amid growing calls for visitors to compensate for the "inconvenience and disruption" they cause.

A survey by Edinburgh City Council found a "significant" level of unprompted backing for plans to introduce a levy on hotel rooms to help pay for increased services such as street cleansing as visitor numbers continue to rise.

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The council sought suggestions on improvements for living in the city and 42 per cent called for the tourist tax to put Edinburgh in line with other cities like Amsterdam and compensate for any problems caused by over-tourism, with concerns raised over the increasing availability of sharing platforms like and Airbnb and the growing short-term let culture.


Andrew Kerr, council chief executive and author of the report which is due to go before councillors later this week, said there was "significant spontaneous support" for the introduction of a tourist tax.

Mr Kerr stated: "Respondents observed that they had paid similar taxes during their stays in Europe and it was reasonable that visitors to Edinburgh did the same.

"To a lesser extent, calls for a tourist tax were about making tourists compensate Edinburgh residents for the inconvenience and disruption they caused."

Opponents, including the Edinburgh Hotels Association, claim the model that works in Amsterdam where there are two "city tax" bands of four and six per cent per room is not compatible because of the current UK tax-raising structure which is already in place to raise money for services, and they challenge its legality.

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Estimates of a charge of between £1 and £4 a room said to be able to raise £15 million a year have been suggested but firm proposals from the council are due within weeks.

HeraldScotland: Edinburgh City Council group leader Adam McVey. Photograph: Gordon Terris

Proponents, including council leader Adam McVey, above, are moving to manage the 4.5m who flock to flagship events every year and are confident their model of tourist tax would meet Scottish Government requirements as councils across the country consider potential tax-raising powers.

Mr McVey said: “For the majority of residents, our festivals and tourism industry are part of what makes Edinburgh such a special place to live.

"The capital attracts four million visitors each year who bring investment, diversity and energy to our city but they also bring a cost in terms of the impact on our core services.

“Clearly, in order to sustain the most successful hospitality sector per head in the world, we need to continue to invest in the areas that make the city a success story - and we know from this and previous surveys that the principle of a tourist tax enjoys broad support amongst residents as a means of contributing to this."

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He said: "We will shortly be in a position to share a business case in support of a levy, encouraging a clear, balanced debate with industry leaders before presenting our proposals to the Scottish Government thereafter.

“In parallel, we are taking a number of steps towards gaining a better understanding of the impact of tourism on our city.

"This includes setting up a cross-party working group to actively monitor and minimise the impact on citizens, particularly during our busier festival months, and working closely with industry groups and the Scottish Government with a view to tightening up regulation of short-term lets, such as Airbnb.”

Tourist tax was first mooted by the Edinburgh Greens in 2011 but this is the first time its popularity has been gauged.

Claire Miller, Green city centre councillor said: The recent Edinburgh budget consultation shows the depth of support within the city, giving a real public mandate for it to happen."

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Willie Macleod, executive director, BHA Scotland, said: "The British Hospitality Association and, indeed the Edinburgh Hotels Association, is resolutely opposed to the introduction of a tourist tax in Edinburgh or elsewhere in Scotland.

"This would be an additional tax on all consumers, including Scots wanting to holiday at home and business travellers - not just foreign visitors.

“A tourist tax would make the Scottish tourism industry even more uncompetitive – already saddled with a 20 per cent rate of VAT on tourism which is more than double that of our European competitors.

“It would simply be punitive to introduce any new charges on hospitality businesses and their customers whilst this competitive disparity exists.

"Local councillors should be supporting the campaign to reduce tourism VAT rather than continuing to push the idea of a tourist tax, given that the Scottish Government has consistently ruled out any proposals to allow local authorities to introduce such a tax.”