The Scottish tourism sector is a success story and makes a vitally important contribution to Scotland’s economy. It employs over 200,000 people, and it is part of the fabric of certain regions and communities across Scotland. The success of the sector has created new economic opportunities for businesses in Scotland and enables people from across the world to experience and learn about Scotland.
As local MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch I have seen firsthand the positive contribution that tourism has made to my local communities, but also some of the challenges that our expanded tourism offer has created for local authorities and the communities they serve.
The Scottish Government is committed to maintaining and enhancing the tourism sector's economic, social and environmental contributions as well as delivering our National Performance Framework commitment of empowered communities by devolving more power to more local levels. Creating a discretionary power to enable local authorities to apply a levy on visitors is a means of allowing local authorities to respond to local circumstances more effectively whilst also allowing local tourism offers to be enhanced.
To give local authorities this power and create a new local tax requires an Act of the Scottish Parliament. This consultation paper therefore seeks views on a broad proposition of enabling local authorities to choose to apply a levy on visitors staying overnight.
There are some important choices to make, especially in relation to the balance between national consistency and local autonomy. As we envisage the levy would be collected by accommodation providers, this consultation seeks views on how the impact on individual businesses might be minimised. There are further considerations explored, including the potential to extend the levy to other visitor activities, ensuring appropriate exemptions from the levy are implemented throughout Scotland and ensuring that the tourist industry is engaged in decisions about applying the levy and how revenues can be spent to further support the tourism industry.
I would strongly encourage everyone to respond to this consultation and I would like to thank you in advance for taking the time to do so.
Kate Forbes MSP
Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy