We held a national discussion on tourist taxes, which involved the industry and local authorities, to develop a shared understanding of the evidence, challenges and potential impacts of tourist taxes. We held round tables across Scotland, including in Edinburgh. Stakeholders, including UK Hospitality and the City of Edinburgh Council, provided written evidence, which we published on 7 March.
As part of the budget deal with the only party that engaged, we will formally consult on the principles of a locally determined tourist tax in 2019 and then introduce legislation. It will be for individual councils to assess local circumstances before they decide whether to use the power.
Leaders of hotel, hospitality and tourism groups in Edinburgh have voiced their opposition to and concerns about the plans for a tourist tax in the capital. It is fair to say that the cabinet secretary’s support for the proposal has been somewhat lukewarm to date. Given people’s concerns, does she think that a tourist tax is a good idea for Edinburgh and Scotland’s tourism sector?
That is a matter for the City of Edinburgh Council, working with the Edinburgh community and businesses, to determine.
I stand by what we agreed as part of our budget negotiations. Had the Conservatives come to the table in any meaningful shape or form, the budget discussions might have been different. We have honoured and will honour our commitment. There will be a consultation, followed by legislation.
Our national discussion showed us that the issue is complex and that there is no single perspective. Today, when I was in Aberdeen, I heard that although some local authorities might want to introduce a tourist tax—some might not want to do so—the read-across between what local authorities do will be important; we heard about a level playing field in Scotland.
All that will be part of the discussions that local authorities have, and if people want to present arguments, I encourage them to take part in the consultation on legislation that will follow our budget negotiations.
Last week, the cabinet secretary was reported as saying that the tax would not be in place until 2021. Is she aware that the council has budgeted for it to be in place next year? In light of the delay that she announced last week, the council will now have to make a further £10 million-worth of cuts to its budget. Where does the cabinet secretary think that those cuts should come from?
The member has been a member of this Parliament for some time, so she will know the process that takes place when new legislation is introduced. Decisions that the City of Edinburgh Council makes are a decision for the City of Edinburgh Council. However, as agreed, we will consult in 2019, and there will be legislation in 2020. The Parliament will consult and take forward the legislation as it normally does. There is no delay. This is the normal process for a normal piece of legislation. I would have thought that the member would understand the processes that she takes part in for any piece of legislation in this Parliament.