COSLA calls for more financial power for councils starting with a transient visitor tax
ISSUED BY COSLA
The President of COSLA, together with COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor, today called for more financial power for Scottish Local Government.
The COSLA team said that this call for more financial power should start with the discretion to introduce a Transient Visitor Tax, and called on the Scottish Government to grant Councils such a power.
Speaking at a media conference in the centre of Edinburgh, Councillors Evison and Macgregor were joined by Councillor Adam McVey, Leader of City of Edinburgh Council.
COSLA President Alison Evison said: “We want to strengthen local democracy and promote local decision making, starting with giving councils the discretion to introduce a Transient Visitor Tax.”
Launching the detailed COSLA document entitled ‘Transient Visitor Tax’ COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Councillor Macgregor said that Scotland needs to be much more innovative about funding for public services.
“What we are asking for today is not a national tax, but a tax that could be introduced locally if the circumstances are right and if councils in their own area think that it is the proper thing to do.”
Councillor Macgregor was also keen to stress that the tourism industry in Scotland has nothing to fear from its possible introduction.
“This is the start of a process through which any industry concerns can be alleviated. Our next step on this journey will be to work with the tourism industry and sector in close partnership to allay any concerns that they may have.
Councillor Macgregor said: “The cost of maintaining the local environment and public services, which draw tourists, falls heavily on the public purse. Sustaining this is at significant risk without new ways to invest.”
COSLA’s President Councillor Alison Evison went on to say: “My job as the President of COSLA is to strengthen local democracy and local choice.
“Local government is a sphere not a tier of government in Scotland. The devolution of powers has been the political hot potato of the last few weeks and it is right that we enter this debate in a mature, thought through manner.
“Our ask of the Scottish Government today would be – devolve to local government the powers it needs to deliver services and build the local economy; give us the chance to empower public services and create opportunities for Scotland to flourish.
“The tourism industry should not be alarmed by this move. A Transient Visitor Tax (TVT) will be a tax on visitors and not on businesses.”
Councillor Evison concluded: “The idea of a levy or tax on visitors is increasingly common across the world, and we are asking the Scottish Government to grant councils the same power here in Scotland.”
Councillor Adam McVey, Leader of City of Edinburgh Council said: “Edinburgh welcomes millions of visitors each year who bring investment, diversity and energy to our city but they also bring a cost in terms of the impact on our core services.
“Our research demonstrates that not only is a levy unlikely to adversely affect Edinburgh’s hotel trade, but that handled correctly, it could help to secure the ongoing sustainability and health of tourism in the city.
“We have already begun a considered and professional debate with our partners across the tourist and hotel industry, the people of Edinburgh and the tourists who would ultimately pay the levy.
“I very much welcome COSLA’s unanimous support for the principal of a tourist tax and look forward to working with our local authority partners to build a compelling case for the introduction of these new powers.”
Councillor Margaret Davidson, Leader of the Highland Council said: “Tourism is the Highland’s most significant industry with over 6 million visitors generating over a billion pounds per annum for the Highland economy.
“This can however put significant pressure on public infrastructure and Local Authorities currently have no mechanism for accessing any of this revenue to invest in infrastructure improvements.
“Giving Local Authorities the ability to raise income locally specifically for investment in tourism will allow areas such as Highland to provide the quality facilities and services that our visitors and tourism businesses rightly expect to find in such a well-known tourism destination.”