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Highland councillors call for motorhome tourist tax

Highland councillors are calling for visiting motorhome owners to pay a tourist tax for visiting.

It comes amid a planned ‘tourism tax’, which won’t affect motorhome drivers unless they park at designated camping sites.

Lochaber councillor Kate Willis says the decision to exclude them will push more people towards parking at the roadside or wild camping.

She has lodged a motion that will be heard at a Highland Council meeting next week asking the local authority to protest the Scottish Government’s decision.

Councillor Willis, whose motion has been backed by her Green Party colleague Chris Ballance, said: “This is a major missed opportunity to generate revenue.

“That money could then be used to improve and provide the facilities that are needed.”

A Highland tourist tax would raise between £5m and £10m a year for the region, an earlier assessment report in 2019 by Highland Council suggests.

Last year, council convener Bill Lobban told a Holyrood committee that it was “inconceivable” that a campervan could stay overnight at a registered site and pay a tourist tax but if they parked in a lay-by instead they wouldn’t.

However, Cosla’s economy spokeswoman Gail Macgregor later told the same committee that trying to charge motorhome users would be difficult.

She suggested that it might end up costing more than it would raise.

Visit Scotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said he’s worried about scenarios where people were driving through several different council areas in one day.

An estimated 200,000 motorhomes visit the Highlands every year.

If a motorhome is rented in the Highlands, an operator would know how many nights they were planning to stay and imposing a tax would be straight-forward.

If it was rented elsewhere, or if the tourist owns the motorhome, determining how and when to charge becomes harder.

The number of motorhome users visiting the Highlands exploded during the pandemic.

Highland Council’s latest budget included a “motorhome passport scheme”.

This would involve tourists voluntarily paying £40 for a bumper sticker to put on their vehicle.

The council hopes to raise £500,000 a year through the scheme, but that would require 12,500 people to sign up.

Critics of the plan have called the estimated figure “the height of optimism”.

Councillor Willis’s motion will be debated on March 14.

If a majority of councillors approve it, the council will raise its objections with the Scottish Government.

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3 comments

Andrew Grisswell March 9, 2024 at 10:48 am

Who are these idiots?
That’s a perfect way of reducing tourism to a country that desperately needs it.
I for one will not be going to Scotland if this tax is introduced, and I suspect I won’t be the only one…!!!!

Reply
Alan Elgey March 10, 2024 at 3:26 pm

we have just spent a few days near Stirling and the Scottish Borders, and spent quite a lot of money in local restaurants, shops and petrol stations , if this comes in , may have to consider stopping on the English side of the border and supporting. businesses here instead . Their loss , shame really as everyone was welcoming and helpful

Reply
Paul Shorrock March 13, 2024 at 4:16 pm

I would be happy to pay for a £40 bumper sticker, as long as the cash raised went directly to the Highland Council and not into the general Scottish tax pot. Tourist taxes are commonplace in other countries, and in the case of Scotland could be used to improve the tourist infrastructure in the case of motorhomes/campers/etc.

There’s no such thing as ‘free’, and why should communities suffer the inconvenience of a huge influx of RVs when they get nothing in return.

I hope it does reduce the number of RVs in the Highlands. It might even mark a return to how things used to be before the current overcrowding by RVs.

Reply

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