SNP’s tourist tax could drive visitors away from Bonnie Banks and holiday destinations

By Bill Heaney reporting from Edinburgh

The Scottish Government’s financial outlook for the next few years looks bleak, as finance secretary Shona Robison admitted more cuts and tax hikes would need to be made.

Humza Yousaf is aiming to raid the pockets of visitors to Scotland by launching a new tourism tax which could see councils rake in millions of pounds.

The announcement of the new tax came as deputy first minister Shona Robison warned that more brutal cuts or tax rises could be on the way as the Scottish Government looks to plug a billion pound black hole in the books.

However, our experience of the DFM is that you can’t believe a word she tells you after we travelled to see her in Edinburgh to save the job of a local GP who had been unfairly sacked by the Health and Social Care Committee of West Dunbartonshire Council.

We explained the background to the doctor’s sacking to her at a specially convened meeting in the Scottish Parliament and she promised to rectify matters.

Especially since GPs were desperately needed at the height of the CovidPandemic.

She could not explain why the Health and Social Care Committee had refused to look at a petition to keep him in post from the doctor’s patients, and she never got back in touch.

The doctor had to take his appeal to an employment tribunal, where The Democrat editor was a witness and told the judge the truth about the actuality of the case and how it had been so badly handled.

That the Council-related-committee hadn’t bothered its shirt to pass on a petition from more than 1,000 of the GP’s patients and were dismayed that he had been forced out.

Having looked at all the circumstances of the case, the employment judge said the doctor had no case to answer and that he should be allowed to return to his profession, which he has now happily done with another practice at Dumbarton Health Centre.

But not before another practice had been offered and accepted his panel of patients.

The basket case council continued to make one unpopular – and costly – mistake after another until they were thrown out by the voters at the local government elections last May.

Instead of making things easier for businesses in tourism areas such as Loch Lomondside and Helensburgh, the Nationalists have come up with a rotten idea to make matters worse for them.

These will, experts are forecasting, turn out to be more than a deterrent than an attraction.

Councils will be given the power to make holiday accommodation providers charge tourists a nightly surcharge, with this cash then being used by local authorities to help pay for essential services.

In simple terms that means they will increase the cost of bed and breakfast, which is about as attractive to tourists as a day out in a downpour in Glasgow.

It comes as councils face more savage budget cuts from the government which needs to find savings to make sure it can afford to pay its outgoings, but realists know that Scotland is skint.

That when the last Council leader in West Dunbartonshire, one Jonathan McColl of unhappy memory, was instructed to go to Edinburgh and ask for mercy for the taxpayers here, he inserted went to a Nationalist function in Stirling for a pint with his close friend, the disgraced former Finance Secretary Derek McKay.

Needless to say between the two of them they cocked up the ferries fiasco that is costing Scottish taxpayers £ millions and counting by day and night and ruining the country’s reputation all over the world, not to mention making the lives of Scotland’s islanders a misery.

If that squandered money was available to the Scottish public who are having to spend their holidays at home this year then they would be planning their summer break in the Bahamas instead of Balmaha.

The Scottish Government said it estimated that due to inflation, pay increases and the lack of further funding from the UK Government, current day-to-day spending requirements, on things like public sector wages, could exceed its funding by £1 billion in the next financial year, and by £1.9 billion in 2027-28.

The gap between capital spending commitments and funding could rise to 16 per cent in 2025-26.

Edinburgh and Loch Lomondside is set to have a new a new tourist tax imposed by the Nationalist government. 

But Ms Robison, in typical SNP Secret Scotland mode, has refused to confirm where these cuts would be coming from although she hinted that more tax rises were on the way for middle class Scots.

She said: “We will have a laser-like focus on spending, ensuring it targets equality, opportunity and community. We will generate economic growth, supporting businesses to invest and create new jobs while increasing tax revenues to invest in better public services.

“And we will continue to build the most progressive tax system in the UK, ensuring the burden of taxation is placed on those with the broadest shoulders.

“There can be no escaping the difficult choices ahead, but by following the plan outlined today we can provide a more prosperous and fairer future for the people of Scotland.”

Scotland is already the highest taxed part of the UK on incomes,and businesses have not received the rates relief offered south of the border, but they will be affected by the tourist tax.

Loch Lomond and West Dumbarton visitor attractions. Top: A fire eater entertains visitors to Edinburgh Festival. Pictures by Bill Heaney

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