SCOTTISH Borders Council has voiced its objections to a proposed tourist tax being considered by the Scottish Government.

In October 2018, Holyrood first minister Nicola Sturgeon ordered a consultation with local authorities following vocal support for a levy on tourist accommodation by some councils.

The biggest proponent of a tourist tax is Edinburgh City Council, and it is proposing a £2 bedroom charge on all forms of accommodation, including hotels, hostels and short term lets.

The Scottish National Party-Labour administration in Edinburgh believes the plans would generate around £11m of extra cash for the city a year, but the authority needs legislation from Holyrood in order to introduce any charge, prompting a formal consultation on the proposals.

However, Scottish Borders Council has taken a very different view to its urban counterparts in Edinburgh and has denounced any plans to raise taxation through a tourist levy.

At a meeting of the council’s ruling executive on Tuesday, January 29, councillors unanimously voted to notify Holyrood of their opposition to a tourist tax.

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison said: “If ever there was wrong time to do this, it’s now. I note that the VAT charge for accommodation in the United Kingdom is 20 per cent, so they’re already paying for it.

“I’m utterly against the whole idea.”

Council leader Shona Haslam, representing Tweeddale East, said that it would be wrong to implement a national tax when the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) has called for councils to be given local tax powers.

She told the meeting: “I am extremely concerned about the focus on transient visitor tax, which is against CoSLA’s position on local taxation, and the fixation of the Scottish Government on a transient visitor tax over and above local taxation is increasingly concerning.

“I am very supportive of this report moving forward, and I’m pleased that this council is taking this position on a tax which places a heavy burden on providers of accommodation and the tourists using that accommodation, rather than answering the bigger issue of local funding in Scotland moving forward.”

The proposed response was drafted by Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, the council’s executive member for business and economic development.

His statement, now to be forwarded to the Scottish Government, reads: “Any discussion about empowering local authorities to raise taxes locally, including transient visitor tax, should be seen as a strand of a wider discussion about the adequacy of the resources and the lack of fiscal powers available to councils in undertaking the broad range of functions for which they are responsible.

“The council has no plans to pursue a transient visitor tax within the Scottish Borders Council area.

“The council considers that to do so would have a negative impact on the number and expenditure of visitors in the area, owing to price sensitivity.

“The council has concerns that a transient visitor tax may exacerbate the existing concentration of visitors and spend in Scotland.

“Such an approach would appear to run counter to the principles of inclusive economic growth and self-defeating in providing new and improved facilities to draw yet more visitors to those areas with the greatest concentrations of visitors and spend already.”