As part of the agreement of the 2019-20 Draft Budget the Scottish Government committed to consulting on the principles of a visitor levy (VL), and to introducing legislation this parliamentary term to provide the power for local authorities to implement such a levy if they consider it appropriate. This commitment was part of a package of measures focussing on local tax reforms and local fiscal empowerment.
The Scottish Government engaged with a range of stakeholders from the tourism industry, local authorities and the wider business community in Scotland in a National Discussion on a VL. This engagement sought to bring partners together to ensure a full range of voices were heard and to participate in discussions on this complex national issue. It aimed to build a common and shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges in this area.
The National Discussion, which included six roundtable events across Scotland, each chaired by a Scottish Government Minister, ran between 23 November 2018 and 25 January 2019, and supporting evidence was published in a discussion document. Following its conclusion, the Scottish Government published a summary of the messages heard and readouts of the individual roundtables, along with the written contributions received from individuals, tourism sector representatives, business organisations, local authorities, and others .
The National Discussion provided a substantial evidence base, illustrating potential opportunities and challenges associated with tourist taxes and drawing out a number of important issues and concerns. This evidence has informed the development of the Scottish Government's proposals around a discretionary visitor levy.
In particular, the consultation sought views to ensure that the legislation:
- supports the continuing success of the tourism industry in Scotland;
- provides the powers that are needed for local authorities to respond to local pressures;
- minimises the administrative and compliance burdens for those affected.
The formal public consultation was conducted for 12 weeks between September and December 2019, encouraging engagement with members of the public, local authorities, tourism businesses and national organisations in the realms of taxation. In addition to this engagement we reached out to stakeholders in Europe to learn about the variety of tourist tax approaches taken in other locations.
Throughout the consultation period views on demographic groups who may be detrimentally affected by a VL were collected and considered. The key concern that we heard was around which, if any, groups should be exempted from paying a VL.
Upon resumption of work on the Bill following the COVID-19 pandemic, Scottish Government contacted 33 stakeholder organisations, representing the 9 protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.
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