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Proposed ‘Visitor Levy’ Will Have Little Benefit for Local Pentland Businesses

Publication: C&B News

Some local business owners have cast their doubts on the proposed "Visitor Levy", which they say would have little benefit for Petland businesses, ahead of a vote on the Bill in June.

Edinburgh view, 2010.

Paul Fisher Cockburn, C&B News

Scottish Government plans to enable local councils to impose a “visitor levy” on overnight accommodation will bring little benefit to the upper Water of Leith valley, according to a local hospitality business owner.

A cash-strapped City of Edinburgh Council has already made it clear that it welcomes the idea of a visitor levy: indeed, in an interview with The Edinburgh Reporter’s editor Phyllis Stephen, CEC leader, Cllr Cammy Day, stated that the capital had been “lobbying the Scottish Government for more than a decade” on the issue.

“The introduction of a levy will provide a funding stream that would be reinvested in the city and our infrastructure,” said Cllr Day, “to the benefit of our visitors and, crucially, the people who live here in our great capital city all year round.”

Research undertaken by CEC suggests wide public support for a levy, although a majority of residents believe that the money raised should benefit them more than tourists, particularly regarding investment in the capital’s infrastructure.

Ben Watson, owner of the award-winning Balerno Inn, is in principle also “for” the levy, at least “when applied to central venues that will gain from it”.

However, he doubts that any benefits will be felt around the upper Water of Leith valley. “The money should be spent on public services across Scotland,” he told C&B News, “but what will happen is, it will disappear into a pot and or be spent on things that don’t benefit Balerno. I’m utterly certain no measurable benefit will ever be seen here.”

In fact, he worries that all the levy will do is introduce additional work. “A ‘wee’ place like TBI could live without the additional admin woes,” he added. “After all, we already collect VAT for HMRC and aren’t credited or reimbursed for the massive admin that goes with it.”

Edinburgh Pentlands Constituency MSP Gordon Macdonald is a member of the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee which last month scrutinised the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill currently progressing through the Scottish Parliament. “Across the world, 22 countries have a visitor levy which includes our top holiday destinations of France, Greece, and Spain or (as it is known in Bhutan) the Daily Sustainable Development Fund, which was introduced in 1974,” he explained. 

“A visitor Levy will allow local authorities to introduce a charge for overnight accommodation if they wish and, if it is introduced, they must consult with the hospitality industry about how such funds should be used to improve the visitor experience,” he said. “Uses range from street cleaning, marketing, to support for culture and protecting our heritage—some of which is currently being borne by Edinburgh residents through their council tax.

“Edinburgh is on track to become the UK’s first city to formally adopt a visitor levy if the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill is passed later this year.”

MSPs are expected to vote on The Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill in June. More details: