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Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop rejects calls for ‘bed tax’

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop
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Scottish secretary for culture and tourism Fiona Hyslop has rejected calls for a ‘bed tax’ on tourists to offset cuts to the culture budget.

The idea has been mooted by local politicians and the culture sector, notably in Edinburgh, where the city council has been calling for some form of local levy on accommodation to help pay for the essential infrastructure that underpins its international festivals.

Saying that the UK had not historically made good decisions on VAT, Hyslop told the Holyrood Magazine that Scotland has the second highest VAT payable for the tourism industry.

She said: “In that context, trying to put extra taxation on [tourists] doesn’t make sense.”

Hyslop took over the post of Secretary for Culture in 2009 and was reappointed following May’s Holyrood election, when tourism was added to her brief for the first time.

She continued: “I agree with the cultural sector, we need more investment to help support the infrastructure in our cities, of course we do, but there are smart ways of doing it.

“That’s what I want to do as part of my brief, to look at smart ways of getting the investment we need, but to do it in a way that doesn’t hammer the tourism industry.”

Her comments follow an opinion poll of 682 Scottish firms published by the Federation of Small Businesses on June 1, which showed that 82% were against any levy on accommodation, rising to 88% among those involved in the £9.7 billion tourist industry.

Earlier this year, eight of Edinburgh’s leading publicly subsidised venues backed calls for a city visitor tax.

A report last year said that extra funding to the tune of £10 million a year could be needed to replace current public financing to the Edinburgh festivals, which accounts for a quarter of their income.

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