Published: 22/05/2018 19:00 - Updated: 17/05/2018 14:46

Hotel bed tax idea is back on the agenda

Written byIain Ramage

 

Margaret Davidson
Councillor Margaret Davidson.

A controversial tourism bed tax is back on the political agenda.

Highland Council leaders now believe it is a sensible option to help raise badly needed revenue.

Council leader Margaret Davidson wants the debate reopened locally and the necessary steps triggered to begin the legislation process required first.

She said: "There are lots of businesses who say they never want it. There are others who say ‘get on with it – and use the income to improve the roads’."

Convener Bill Lobban believes there is now cross-party support for a levy of, perhaps, £1 per night, at tourist accommodation. He said: "If there was a vote of this council, we would get it through."

Cllr Davidson was not committed, personally, to say whether she would back a levy but wants the debate to happen.

Conservative regional MSP Ed Mountain has opposed the idea. He said: "There’s considerable evidence that shows when the pound drops in value, tourism in the UK increases. When prices increase tourism decreases.

"Placing a bed tax on accommodation in the Highlands would be detrimental and probably spark sufficient adverse comment, perhaps even enough to make visitors reconsider their destination."

He said it would put a significant administrative burden on small firms.

The council’s SNP group leader Maxine Smith believes there is cross-party support for a "transient visitor levy" to generate extra revenue "to provide a more qualitative experience for tourists" and boost essential income for roads. She said: "I’d like to find a way of ring-fencing some of the income to spend directly on business grants to the hospitality sector."

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