Vote confirms no visitor levy in place in Scotland until 2026 at the earliest

UKHospitality Scotland Executive Director Leon Thompson

THE Visitor Levy Bill, passed today by the Scottish Parliament, brings to a close a decade-long debate on whether councils should have the power to introduce a levy or tourist tax.

The Scottish Parliament has now decided that they should, with councils able to start considering plans on whether to explore the introduction of a levy.

Commenting, Executive Director of UKHospitality Scotland, Leon Thompson said: “This is an important moment for Scotland’s hospitality and tourism sector, with councils now empowered to introduce a visitor levy, should they wish to.  This has been a long debate and today’s support for the enabling legislation by MSPs brings this part of the conversation to a close.

“UKHospitality Scotland is pleased that MSPs agreed with our members that a minimum period of 18-months for preparation, after a council formally decides to introduce a levy, be retained in the legislation. Anything less would have undermined the ability of both councils and businesses to prepare adequately for the introduction of any levy. The minimum 18-month period ensures there will not be a levy in place anywhere in Scotland until 2026 at the earliest.

“We also welcome the legislation’s commitment to ensuring funds raised are used to support and boost facilities used by leisure and business visitors, alongside the creation of local Levy Forums to discuss how funds should be allocated.”

“It is now for councils considering introducing a levy to work with accommodation providers, alongside the wider hospitality and tourism sector.

“To help ensure consistency and a clear approach to introducing any levy, UKHospitality Scotland has worked with industry partners and colleagues in local authorities, to develop statutory guidance that will assist any council considering developing a scheme. This guidance will be vital to ensure proper consideration is given to the merits, or otherwise, of establishing a scheme and will be published this summer.

“Charges will add additional cost to holidays for international and domestic visitors. This will add to the competitive disadvantage Scotland currently faces. Over and above cost considerations, if handled badly, levies will have consequences for the reputation of Brand Scotland. I urge councils to listen to the voice of business when considering the introduction of a levy.

“Whilst the charge will be for visitors to pay, accommodation providers will face considerable costs in preparing IT and administration systems to handle charging and taking receipt of levy payments. UKHospitality Scotland will continue to support our businesses in calling for cost recovery from councils. Afterall, as councils look to recover their costs in preparing to introduce a levy, it is only fair and appropriate that accommodation providers, charged with collecting the tax, be compensated.

“Today signals the start of the next phase in the conversation on visitor levies in Scotland. UKHospitality Scotland will continue to represent the interests of our members in the discussions ahead.”

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