VISITORS to Scotland could soon pay a tourist tax with ministers set to devolve powers to councils allowing them to bring in a charge for anyone staying in overnight accommodation. 

The Scottish Government published the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill on Thursday morning, following years of debate. 

If backed by MSPs, local authorities will be able to add a charge on all overnight accommodation, based on a percentage of the total costs.

Edinburgh Council has already pledged to introduce the charge as soon as they can, with the leader of the authority saying he was confident paying a few extra pounds per day would not "put anybody off coming to world’s best city."

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The government says all money raised will need to be “reinvested locally on facilities and services substantially for or used by visitors, enhancing the tourist experience and benefitting local communities and their economies.”

Under the plans, councils will need to put the levy out to consultation, taking soundings from communities, businesses and tourism organisations. 

Part of that consultation will be on how any revenue raised is spent.

The tax was first promised by ministers in 2019 when the then finance secretary Derek Mackay added a commitment to look at the charge in his budget to secure the support of the Greens. 

Launching the Bill at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur said: “Scotland is already a very popular tourist destination and the domestic and international visitors we welcome every year have a significant and positive impact on the Scottish economy

“Giving councils the power to introduce a visitor levy is one tool that will provide additional resources to continue to attract visitors to Scotland.

“Levies on visitors staying in paid-for accommodation are already used around the world and it is reasonable for local areas to want a small contribution from tourists to help support and sustain visitor economies.

“There have been significant contributions to the Bill so far from the tourism industry, COSLA and other partners and I look forward to continuing to work with them as it progresses through Parliament.”

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Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said the policy had long been contentious for the industry.

However, he said the sector recognised that the tax was coming and would work with the government to make sure it delivered “the best possible outcome for Scottish tourism.” 

He said: “All income raised by any local authority that decides to proceed in implementing a Visitor Levy must be used to enhance tourism, which as a sector, delivers significant economic benefits for the nation and our communities. 

“The Visitor Levy must be viewed as a force for good, rather than being labelled as a ‘tourism tax’, which is extremely damaging for Scotland’s reputation as a desirable tourist destination to domestic and international visitors.

“The tourism and hospitality industry are keen to continue working with the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure the best possible outcome for Scottish tourism, ensuring that it contributes to our shared national ambition to become the world leader in 21st century tourism.”

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Edinburgh City Council Cammy Day said "paying a few pounds more per day" would not "put anybody off coming to the world’s best city.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he added: “This levy is applied across the world and it has not impacted on tourism anywhere.”

He insisted the charge would be “less than the price of a cup of coffee” for many visitors, adding: “It is common practice across the world. Many, many major cities across Europe have had this for many, many years.”