PLANS to give local authorities new powers to charge a levy on overnight stays are to be voted on at Holyrood today.

MSPs will debate and vote on the general principles of legislation empowering councils to introduce a tourist tax.

If passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill would allow local authorities to introduce a charge on overnight visitor stays, with the cash raised to be used to benefit tourists.

The legislation proposes the new levy 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.

Wild campers and people in motorhomes and camper vans who pitch elsewhere would not be covered.

READ MORE: Tourist tax should be used to boost tourism, claim industry leaders

The Scottish Government agreed to bring forward the legislation as part of a budget deal agreed with the Greens in 2019, but the Bill was delayed by the Covid pandemic.

Tommy Sheppard, whose Edinburgh East constituency also encompasses some of the city’s most popular tourist attractions like Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile, told The National that it was a “no brainer”.

The SNP MP said: “I hope they pass this and pass it swiftly. Tourist areas look forward to receiving tourists and providing facilities for them but I think there is a need for additional investment in facilities and that it's fair to ask people who are visiting to make a small contribution towards the cost of that.”

The National:

The bill is expected to see some opposition from the Scottish Conservatives.

Their shadow secretary for tourism Murdo Fraser said there would be a benefit to the levy “if we could be sure” that the money directly goes to enhancing local services but added that it could also add an “additional financial burden” during the cost-of-living crisis and “discourage tourists from visiting Scotland”.

Sheppard rubbished these concerns, saying that it is a “very modest” charge and that similar “successful” schemes can be found across Europe.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer, meanwhile, said the Bill showed the impact his party could have.

The West of Scotland MSP said: “Scotland is incredibly fortunate to be such an attractive tourist destination, but this puts a huge strain on local services, ranging from public toilets to bin collections.

“Tourists obviously don’t pay council tax, so a small levy on their overnight stays is a fair way to ensure that local residents aren’t left picking up the bill.

“Visitor levies are already common across Europe and beyond, including in top destinations like Paris and Barcelona. It is a small charge that will make a big difference here in Scotland.

“This is just one of the steps Scottish Greens are taking in government to give more powers to local communities, alongside the ability to double council tax on holiday homes and the upcoming cruise ship levy.”