CHARGING a visitor levy on wild campers and holidaymakers in motorhomes who do not stay on regulated sites would be too “onerous”, council leaders have warned.

Gail Macgregor, economy spokesperson for the local government body Cosla, stressed that seeking to apply any charges to these groups would be so difficult that it may cost more than it would raise.

With the Scottish Government bringing forward legislation which would allow councils to introduce a visitor levy on overnight stays, councils such as Highland have called for tourists in motorhomes and campervans to come under its remit.

Bill Lobban, the convener of Highland Council, has previously told MSPs scrutinising the plans there needs to be “some way of including campervans in the process”.

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But giving evidence to MSPs on the Local Government Committee, Macgregor said the new charge has to be “manageable by local authorities”.

She said: “Whether we’re looking at a flat rate or a percentage rate, if it is accommodation based rather than visitor number based then it is much easier to manage and collect.

“We have looked at wild campers and motorhomes, but unless they are actually staying in dedicated sites it would be very, very difficult for us, and probably quite onerous and could get to the point where what we’re bringing in through the levy is being lost in the collection of that.”

As it stands, the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill, which has been brought forward by the Scottish Government, would allow councils to charge a fee on overnight visitor stays – with the cash raised then being used in a way that would benefit tourists.

It is proposed the 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 and caravan parks – but wild campers and those in motorhomes and campervans who pitch elsewhere would not be covered.

The Scottish Government is also seeking to give councils the power to charge a levy on visiting cruise ships.

While this could be included in the Visitor Levy Bill, Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur (below) stressed the Government did not want to see the introduction of the legislation delayed.

The National: Tom Arthur

He told the committee: “We may seek to amend the bill to include the cruise ship levy but that will very much depend on whether policy development work and a consultation have been completed.

“We do not want to delay this bill and the power it will give to local authorities.”

He insisted a visitor levy could be a “force for good”, saying councils would be able to use funds raised “to invest in their local economy, bring benefits to visitors and residents alike”.

While some in the tourism sector have claimed the charge “risks the competitiveness” of the industry, Arthur stressed that Scotland was already a “world class tourist destination”.

He added the bill would give councils a discretionary power to “raise additional revenue to invest in the visitor economy” and could “generate valuable extra investment to enhance and to support and to develop the world-class offering Scotland already gives”.