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Tourist tax: Moray Council leader needs to know more but expects Tory colleagues not to support it

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The leader of Moray Council wants to see more detail about the potential new tourism tax before making a final decision.

However, Kathleen Robertson expects her admistration colleagues not to support it.

On the other hand, the head of the Moray Tory group thinks if the proposals get put in front of the full council, they would be passed.

Earlier today, the SNP Scottish Government published legislation to give local authorities the power to apply a visitor levy.

If passed, the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill will allow councils to impose an added charge on overnight visitors.

It would be a percentage of their accommodation costs, and would apply to those staying in hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, self-catering accommodation, camp sites, caravan parks and boat moorings or berthings.

Should Moray have a tourist tax?

Elgin Cathedral.

Moray is rich with historical landmarks, beautiful coastlines, food and whisky.

Mrs Robertson told The P&J: "On the balance of the full council it would probably be supported.

"The cash could be used for toilets and reopening Falconer Museum in Forres.

"However we as the administration, we have to follow the Tory party line which is generally that we do not favour extra taxes and burden on businesses.

"I don't think our group would support it.

"The devil's in the the detail, we need more information and we do have officers working on it "

Council leader Kathleen Robertson.

'Another tax from SNP Government'

Meanwhile, she said it was just another tax by Scottish Government.

She added: " It is just another way of taxing by the Scottish Government and if they provided us with a better settlement, it wouldn't be proposed.

"They risk pushing tourists away from our regions."

Moray Council.

How is the money going to be spent?

Chief executive of Moray Chamber of Commerce Sarah Medcraf says she will seek feedback from members on the tourist tax proposals.

But raised concerns about allocation of funds generated by the tax and impact on businesses.

Moray Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sarah Medcraf. Image: Jason Hedges/ DC Thomson

She said: "People do recognise the nature of sustainable in improvements and investment comes from cash and this is a way it could generate some cash.

"But how the money is spent is the real question mark if people know what they are paying to be staying in Moray Speyside and what the businesses know where the money is going to once they collected it is things such as good infrastructure.

"If the funds are raised and spent locally and relevant for tourism industry it is a bit more palpability."

Elgin High Street. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

She added: "Overall businesses are still recovering from Covid and on the whole we are against new taxes coming in."

"We haven't surveyed our members recently, so need to do that especially as last time we asked them about the tourist tax was pre covid and the world has changed a lot since then.

"If some guest houses who stay below the VAT threshold of 85,000 have to collect , lets says a pound for every bed does that push it over the vat threshold.

"It makes an unfair playing field.

"Also what happens if Aberdeen and Inverness are different to Moray."

History of the region's views on tourism tax

Back in 2018, under the SNP administration led by Graham Leadbitter, they backed the tourism tax generating £800k per year for under-pressure services.

Then the local authority faced slashing services across the region in an attempt to save £14million over the next two years in order to stave off bankruptcy.

At the time he said: "A tourist tax is a huge opportunity to boost our tourism investment, which would make Moray more attractive to repeat visitors and take our visitor economy up another level."

Then the Scottish Government stressed that there were currently "no plans" to introduce a levy on the tourism sector.

Graham Leadbitter,

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