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Calls for ‘visitor vehicle levy’ on NC500

NC500 motorhome

A new report has called for a levy to target visitor vehicles, including campervans, motorhomes and caravans.

Published by Lochcarron man Robin Pettigrew, it suggests such a move could ‘more effective’ than tourist tax on accommodation.

The report, entitled ‘Tourism: But not at any price’ states: “The success of VisitScotland and other agencies in delivering an ever-increasing number of visitors to Scotland has unfortunately not been matched with sufficient infrastructure investment to accommodate them.

“This is having a massive environmental impact across Scotland – extensive litter and human waste pollution, destruction of and damage to flora and fauna, erosion of road verges by parked cars and vans, obstruction to other road users (including emergency services), fouling of watercourses by chemical waste, barbeques and campfires.”

Pettigrew argues that “a vehicle-based tax is not only fairer but it will bring in a similar level of revenue.”

He proposes that vehicles of residents and businesses in the Highland council area should be exempt.

He said: “There are people in the central belt who have a lot of ill-informed and untested assumptions about tourism in the Highlands including the NC500

“While I don’t want to single out any particular minister, however when we approached one, the response was that campervans help tourism in the Highlands and benefit the region financially yet the evidence that we have points in the exact opposite position.”

Known as Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the 516-mile North Coast 500 (NC500) was created to help boost tourism in the North Highlands and generate economic opportunities for the area.

The route begins and ends in Inverness and follows the coast of the North Highlands of Scotland, taking in the regions of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-shire.

Amongst the many accolades it has received, the North Coast 500 was named ‘Best Road Trip in the World’ by Condé Nast Traveler in April 2017.

Research carried out by University of Glasgow Training and Employment Research Unit suggests a 26 per cent average rise in visitor numbers to the areas of the Highlands involved, compared to a six per cent increase across the rest of the region.

The study also found the volume of traffic on the route to have rose by 10 per cent, with accommodation providers and visitor attractions along the route benefitting from an average of 15-20 per cent increase in trade.

What’s your reaction to the call for a ‘visitor vehicle levy’? Share your comments below.

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9 comments

Paul September 14, 2023 at 7:59 pm

Regions and their inhabitants need to decide if they want tourists and the income that they bring or not.

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katey jane andrews September 15, 2023 at 10:24 am

Its the ones causing issues that’s putting those locals against everyone. We all tarted to one brush.

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Lynda Broadbent September 15, 2023 at 7:19 am

Without basic facilities in place, some tourists will abuse the areas in which they stop. Whilst CampRa is doing lots to improve the situation, many site owners have ramped up prices by ridiculous margins, discouraging people from stopping. This includes the two big membership organisations. Most MH owners do not want luxury facilities at an extortionate price, they want toilets, chemical waste disposal and fresh water, which I’m sure they’d happily pay a nominal sum towards. Seems like the NC500 is a victim of its own success and media publicity. Taxes are always the preferred option in the UK, if in doubt, tax it, that’ll sort it. All well and good if taxes are used to improve facilities, too often not the case.

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Paul Simpson September 15, 2023 at 7:58 am

I agree with Lynda Broadbent’s initial point- there will always be that sector of tourist’s who will abuse/ disrespect the area, think they are a rule onto themselves.
Campra & it’s members work with Councils in their goal to provide simple mh Aires/ stop over locations, removal of height barriers from car parks. Not every site has to be 5 star, all inclusive.

A levy on all visitor’s to the Highlands, would be better than just targeting motorhome / campervan owners, as Ian Blackford suggests. ( when we toured the NC500 in June, it was disappointing to see the number of cars, that were ‘parked up at Passing Places,’ and the occupants were out with their chairs & tables !!!
It should also be easy to ensure local residents and businesses do not get a charge.

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Balliol Fowden September 15, 2023 at 8:22 am

Lynda is absolutely right. To put figures to things I would happily pay £10.00 or even £15.00 to empty my toilet cassette (and rinse it), empty my grey water tank, top up with water and dispose of my daily rubbish bag. And if there were to be a shop there then that would be the place that we would patronise. £10 to £15 is surely a business opportunity for any site that has access to basic mains water and drainage.

On a recent trip we were very pleased to see the new facilities block at Falls of Foyers, until we realised that lots of money had been spent on lovely toilets and showers (that we did not need) but there was no public water tap. If it is possible to provide a flushing chemical toilet emptying point then why not a drinking water tap? We took our wallets to Drumnadrochit, where the excellent MH provisions made us feel welcome, we were happy to make a worthwhile donation to use the MH facilities and we spent nearly £100.00 shopping in the village.

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Robert Turner September 15, 2023 at 8:33 am

Strikes me a few greed hotel/campsite owners whilst benefiting from the increase are not seeing the full benefit of the increase. 26% against 20%. Let us not forget these are only statistics. Sure an increase is a benefit to all. How do they know venues are declaring all their income!!! 🤷‍♂️

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katey jane andrews September 15, 2023 at 10:23 am

It comes down to one thing, common sense from both sides, van owners need to start using their brains but some of causing issues for all. No one wants litter and a mess but you will get the ones who just do not care.

When it comes to that van hater facebook group they are dead against people parking up off grid. I am not on holiday, i live in my motorhome, it is my only home and its been designed never to see a campsite, i live for adventure, hiking running so on in the countryside so i have no need to go to campsites, I would be giving them money for nothing, I live an alternative lifestyle and that’s a big no no in this daft country.

Soon you will not be allowed to live or breath.

Take a look at the nc 500 the dirty truth, they are even moaning at cruise ships, everything seems to be an issue. Councils and farmers keep closing parking areas forcing people to not use common sense and park together.

Ian blackford is right in some ways where van drivers or lorry drivers need to pull over, i do round these tight roads, i,m no slow driver yet my 200 bph motorhome still struggles so why hold others up and he is so wrong in others, banning vans is discrimination.

When he states about travelling in convoys, if i get stuck behind a slow motorhome and not with that person then other gets stuck behind me who also doesn’t know me or the other driver yet can’t get past that is not a convoy. What about car drivers getting stuck behind each other is that a car cruise?

Best thing to do, put fences up around towns and villages, no one is allowed to leave and call them HMP lol.

It is becoming a real issue when you park up, keep yourself to yourself, cause no issues and get hammed by a group of life haters in a fb group. Should they be targeting the ones who cause the issues?

I see a lot of mess around galloway hills, i spend most of my time parked in the trees in one place, most people knows about me and i get on very well with locals because they know what i,m about and doing, in fact they find my lifestyle fascinating, I help out the local forestry when i,m parked up as i stop fly tippers.

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katey jane andrews September 15, 2023 at 2:27 pm

Hey, also take a long hard look at these people’s profiles on FB, they don’t show their faces and attack everything they deem not to their liking, I bet 90% are not from Scotland, they moved up north thinking they own the area.

That Robin gizza he hides. No matter what you do these people will hate. stuck in the dark ages and they are looking at these site, They are old has beens, its as simple as that.

Next will be too many sheep lmfao.

I’ve met people like him and they all reclus types.

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Stuart Codling September 15, 2023 at 4:20 pm

Very interesting comments. We are also full time but now looking to go purchase a bungalow as we’ve now had enough of the anti van mentality in general not just the popular routes.

However…… I shall say this again, as I always do. It’s really not the issue with the waste, rubbish etc. of course this is unacceptable but it’s the minority.

The real issue ? Just the sheer volume of people now owning a van of any kind for the purpose of staying out for whatever amount of time.

Just too many and it’s getting worse so …… sadly? The end will come. Nothing lasts forever and it’s true. Be grateful for the good memories and feel a little sad for those embarking on “van life” with no future.

But …… it is what it is unfortunately.

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