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Business / Tourists could be taxed, if isles want it

Lerwick harbour was busy on Friday with yachts participating in the Shetland Race as well as the 293 metre cruise liner Costa Mediterranea visiting. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland NewsTourism is vital to the economic wellbeing of the isles.

SHETLANDERS are being invited to give their views on fixing a “transient visitor levy”, also known as a tourist tax.

The tax could be operated through accommodation providers, though the Scottish Government has not ruled out applying the scheme via other methods. There is presently no tourist tax in place anywhere in Scotland.

It is currently consulting on a locally determined visitor levy, which would need the consent of the local authority, and is holding information sessions around the country, including two in Lerwick next week.

The sessions will take place in Shetland College UHI, Lerwick, next Wednesday at 2 – 3.30pm and 6 – 7.30pm.

Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government is committed to devolving more power to local authorities as well as taking steps to safeguard the future of Scotland’s vibrant tourism industry.

“That is why we are looking for views from members of the public as well as industry on the principles of a transient visitor levy.

“This will not be a national tax and it will be for individual local authorities to decide whether or not to apply a visitor levy if they consider it appropriate for the local community.

“Money raised by those local authorities that introduce a levy will be retained by them to invest in local tourism activity, helping to safeguard the sustainability of the industry.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to attend the information sessions in Lerwick and respond to the consultation to ensure the legislation strengthens local decision making and enhances tourism across Scotland.”

VisitScotland’s island manager Steve Mathieson added: “Tourism is vital to the economic well-being of Shetland, with spending by many thousands of visitors each year directly supporting over a thousand jobs across the island’s communities.

“VisitScotland argues that if a tax were to be introduced anywhere the resulting revenue must be invested back into tourism.”

He said the Scottish Government had committed to engage with stakeholders on “this complex issue” before introducing legislation.

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts, meanwhile, said last year that he felt “visitor tax is not one we would necessarily wish to explore at this stage”.

The information sessions are free but limited by venue capacity. To guarantee a space please register on Eventbrite, or call 0131 244 0673.

The consultation is open until 2 December and can be found at https://consult.gov.scot/local-government-and-communities/visitor-levy/

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