By opposing Labour MSP Monica Lennon’s call for Edinburgh to be given the power to set a hotel tax, Fiona Hyslop MSP is ignoring the wishes of Edinburgh’s citizens and siding with multi-national hotel chains.
I have lived in Edinburgh since 1996 and it fills me with pride that it can attract people from around the world. Walking around our Capital’s streets, however, I also feel a little ashamed about what international visitors see. Our roads are potholed. Too often, our footpaths are grubby and the bins are overflowing.
This is not a criticism of the City of Edinburgh Council’s hardworking staff. Budgets have been cut year on year by the SNP Government.
Indeed, most recently the SNP forced the Great Edinburgh International Cross-Country event to be cancelled. As one of the few world-class sporting events staged annually in Scotland, it attracted visitors and coverage from around the world.
If the SNP Government had given Edinburgh the ability to raise revenues in the same way cities around the world are able to, this event could easily have been funded alongside improvements to our city.
It is utter hypocrisy that our SNP Government is obsessed independence, but give none to our Capital. All we get is cuts.
Like Rome, New York, Vienna, Amsterdam and Paris, Edinburgh attracts tourist from around the world in droves. In 2014 3,795,000 tourists visited Edinburgh and stayed an average of 3.5 days – that’s 13 million overnight stays.
Unlike these cities, however, Edinburgh has no hotel tax. If you stay a night in a New York hotel, the city gains $15. Likewise, in Paris a night in its very best hotel sees that city gain a more modest €1.20.
Edinburgh’s Labour Councillors, together with Monica Lennon MSP, are arguing for our Capital to be given the right to set a hotel tax and use the income to make the city a better place for tourists and residents alike.
A night in an Edinburgh hotel costs from £10 to an eye-watering £1000, with most rooms falling within the £90 to £175 band. Taxing overnight stays in larger establishments at a modest 1% would not impact on the ability of Edinburgh to attract tourists, but would raise £10m-£20m for the city.
A modest tax on this industry would help reverse the cuts to services and help ensure Edinburgh continues to attract people from around the world to visit, study or work.