THE Scottish capital is on the brink of joining popular cities like Venice and Barcelona by introducing a tourist tax.

Edinburgh City Council said it could raise as much as £29 million a year to help keep streets clean and manage growing numbers of tourists as it agreed to the plan.

Over-tourism in the city has already led to a ticket system at Edinburgh Castle and calls for curbs on the number of tourist coaches choking historic thoroughfares in the city's World Heritage Site.


Hospitality industry leaders "steadfastly" oppose the levy, insisting enough taxes are raised in the UK and shared with councils, adding Edinburgh would still need special permission from Holyrood to raise the tax.

However, the move has given impetus to others and is also now being considered by councils including Glasgow.

It comes as an MSP said the city is being denied "European" status by so far being refused the power to raise such taxes.

READ MORE: Businesses oppose Edinburgh tourism tax plans

Andy Wightman, Green MSP, urged Holyrood to bring forward legislation to give local councils "powers that municipalities in other European countries take for granted".

The body that represents Scottish local authorities, Cosla, has also backed local tax-raising powers.

HeraldScotland: For the first time the OpenArtCode group of international artists will exhibit in Venice

Above: Venice has tourist tax

An Edinburgh group of the Educational Institute of Scotland is also expected to raise at the union AGM whether education could benefit from tourist tax.

Adam McVey, leader of the SNP-Labour coalition council, said the next stage of the process is to consult fully with hospitality firms, who have been consistently opposed to the plan.

READ MORE: Edinburgh makes case for tourist tax with new research

He said: "It would be an underestimate to say this has been a long time coming."

Around Europe, tourist levies are seen in popular destinations, and in Paris, it costs about £2.50 per person in a mid-range hotel, in Rome, it is about £5 per person, Barcelona £2 and £3.50 in Venice.

The city's full council voted on Thursday to press ahead with the tourist tax - or transient visitor levy.

Mr McVey also said that "with such a level of vibrancy come consequences that we need to manage and mitigate".

READ MORE: Edinburgh Airbnb neighbours 'get final say' under holiday flat rule change

"The transient visitor levy is all about trying to raise additional money, a small levy placed on particularly the hotels in (a city with) one of the most regularly highest occupancy rates anywhere outside London.

"It is a very, very strong hotel market in this city, to ask them to add a small levy to those stays in helping us fund the things that we pay for to create that vibrancy."

Willie Macleod, of the British Hospitality Association, said that "in the vast majority of these destinations, VAT is levied on tourism services including hotel rooms at around half of the 20 per cent rate applied here, including France and Italy where it is ten per cent".


He said: "Edinburgh council is singularly determined to push this through and we are determined that this is a bad thing for the industry.

"To suggest that tourism businesses and hotels in particular are not making their contribution to public finances is misleading."

Edinburgh Conservatives' call on the council to rethink the plan and seek more funding from Holyrood was beaten by 43-18 votes.

READ MORE: Surge in support for tourist tax in Edinburgh for 'inconvenience and disruption'

The Conservatives claimed there is no guarantee funds raised would be ring-fenced for Edinburgh, and the council had failed to get government backing or take hoteliers with them.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said a working group found "a tourist tax was worthy of further investigation, but no proposals have been brought forward since".

A Cosla spokesman said: “We want to strengthen local democracy and local choice and that is why Cosla, on behalf of Scotland’s council leaders, will continue make the case for the introduction of local discretionary taxes such as TVL for all local authorities to address specific local issues.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have been consistent in our stance that, given the potential impact on tourism, we have no plans to introduce visitor levy on the tourism sector, which is already subject to the second highest VAT rates in Europe by the UK Government."