A PLANNED new visitor levy in Scotland has been under scrutiny as Edinburgh’s festivals seek an exemption.

Holyrood’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee began their scrutiny on Tuesday of plans to allow councils to charge a fee on overnight visitor stays.

The new visitor fee would be a percentage of visitors’ accommodation costs, and would apply to those staying in hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, self-catering accommodation, campsites, caravan parks and boat moorings.

The money raised would then be reinvested locally in facilities or services used by tourists. Other European cities have introduced similar charges.

READ MORE: What is a tourist tax and what will one in Scotland look like?

The flexibility the levy gives councils to set the rate for the levy has been hailed by local government body Cosla, but concerns that councils could use proceeds to “substitute” for reduced funding elsewhere have also been raised by Festivals Edinburgh director Julia Amour.

She told The Scotsman that festival artists and backstage workers should be exempt and argued that a “clear majority” of proceeds from the tourist tax should be allocated to the culture, heritage and festivals sectors in Edinburgh due to their “importance” to the city’s economy.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, claimed the proposed charge “risks the competitiveness of the Scottish tourism industry”.

She said: “It is absolutely true that lots of European markets have got levies in place but they do not have our level of VAT.

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“A new levy in Scotland would be in addition to VAT, whereas in 25 of the EU countries they have a discounted VAT rate for tourism, so we are automatically being disadvantaged.”

Campbell continued: “Frankly, I think this is the absolutely last thing the small accommodation and self-catering sector needs.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The visitor levy is part of the Scottish Government’s work to support and sustain the visitor economy in Scotland.

“It is reasonable to ask visitors to make a small contribution on top of the cost of their overnight accommodation to help manage the impact of tourism in local areas.

“Revenue raised could be used by local councils, for example, to invest in campsite facilities or to increase funding to local ranger services who engage frequently with people to promote responsible access in the outdoors.”