David Richardson, Development Manager for the Highlands & Islands Region of the Federation of Small Businesses reports that Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Cabinet Minister for Tourism, has knocked the idea of a bedroom tax on the head.
If there is one industry that touches almost every community in Scotland, it is our £9.7 billion tourist industry. Indeed, many communities in the Highlands depend on tourism for their very existence.
Tourism is indeed the goose that lays the golden eggs, but all geese are vulnerable and tourism is no exception: it must be nurtured and never taken for granted.
While we can all point to the many positives that draw visitors to Scotland and all parts of it, it is essential that we recognise the negatives that discourage others from coming here and do whatever we can to remove or mitigate them. Cost is one such negative.
Scotland is not a cheap holiday option; quite the reverse, for the UK is the second most expensive destination in the developed world after Switzerland.
It is therefore a matter of grave concern to the Federation of Small Businesses that instead of focussing on making Scotland more competitive, some councils and their representative body, COSLA – the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities – wanted to introduce a new tourist bed tax that would make us more expensive still. The tax would be paid by people staying in virtually all forms of accommodation.
When it is cheaper and easier for many families and couples to enjoy all-inclusive holidays abroad than at home, do we really want to make Scotland more expensive? Of course, some people argue that adding a few pounds to a bill for each night’s stay is a mere bagatelle, but this tax is not hidden in the total bill but is shown separately at the bottom of the page, where it sticks out like a sore thumb. Seeing £35 unexpectedly accumulate on bills can rankle.
While some politicians believe that a tourist bed tax would relieve pressure on council services, enabling them to invest more in the visitor economy, FSB members think that they would be playing with fire. New FSB research reveals that 82% of Scottish businesses from all sectors are against the proposal; in the Highlands & Islands it’s even stronger at 93%, with 99% of respondents saying that it would damage their businesses and 96% that it would damage other businesses and their local economies.
FSB’s campaign to persuade the Scottish Government to rule out the introduction of this regressive new tax has been supported by the Scottish Tourism Alliance and British Hospitality Association and it now looks like it has borne fruit.
While acknowledging that more investment is required to support tourism infrastructure, the new Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Fiona Hyslop MSP, has said that the proposed tourist bed tax doesn’t make sense and that “smarter” alternatives must be found.
It would appear that thanks to FSB’s campaigning, the golden egg-laying goose can live to honk another day.