Edinburgh could become the first city in the UK to introduce a tourist tax, according to new plans unveiled by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Scottish Government intends to introduce a bill giving councils the powers to implement a visitor levy. The bill is expected to be laid before parliament early next year.

The proposed tax would see overnight visitors pay a small additional charge on their accommodation. It is estimated that the levy could raise approximately £15 million per year, which could be used to invest in sustainable tourism as well as managing the impact of tourism on the city.

Nicola Sturgeon announced:

“We will introduce a Local Visitor Levy Bill to give local authorities additional fiscal flexibility. This will help councils, if they so choose, to fund activities related to tourism and related infrastructure.”

The Edinburgh City Council has campaigned for a visitor levy for several years, with a consultation in 2018 revealing that 85 per cent of the 2,500 respondents supported its introduction.

City of Edinburgh council leader Cammy Day commented on the news:

“This is fantastic news for the city, and a landmark step following years of work here in the Capital to make the case for a visitor levy – something that’s common practice in other major cities and destinations across the world.

“We’re very proud to be one of the world’s most popular visitor destinations, but we’re equally aware that this success comes at a cost. That’s why we believe it’s right to ask visitors to make a small contribution to help us sustain and improve our tourism offer while managing its impact…

“Ultimately the income this generates will help us continue to invest in and manage the success of tourism on our city, making sure we continue to offer one of the most enviable and enjoyable visitor experiences in the world – while bringing new and additional benefits to our residents who live and work here all year round.

“We acknowledge, of course, that this has been an extremely challenging period for our culture and hospitality industries and are fully committed to working together with them, the wider tourism industry and other partners to co-produce a scheme that works best for the whole of our Capital city.

“I’ll be pushing the Scottish Government hard to ensure that any income generated is in addition to our block grant funding – not instead of it – and that we’re in a position to benefit from this as soon as possible.”