A marker has been laid down by Angus Council’s leader that the county will remain a tourist-tax free zone under his watch.
During discussion of the authority’s response to a Scottish Government consultation on a “discretionary transient visitor levy”, Arbroath Independent David Fairweather rejected outright the notion a charge would be introduced by his coalition administration.
Councils and the tourism industry are being asked for their views on a scheme which could see a charge of £1-a-night being added to hotel bills.
Angus officials have said an overnight accommodation levy would be the most “transparent and pragmatic approach” to implementing a tourist tax and have suggested as much local discretion as possible is built into any scheme which comes into place.
Policy and resources committee councillors were told the council’s response had not been the subject of consultation with the local tourism industry because that would follow any decision to implement a charge but the authority leader gave it a cool reception.
Mr Fairweather said: “It is certainly something we as an administration wouldn’t seek to bring into Angus any time in the future.”
Forfar Conservative councillor Braden Davy said: “I’m worried this will hurt small businesses across Angus, particularly individual or family-run businesses.”
However, Montrose SNP member Bill Duff said the authority should not rush to dismiss the idea out of hand.
“Councils are short of money and are always looking at additional ways of getting in income,” he said.
“I think there are clearly some councils, such as Edinburgh, which are keen to see something like this.
“But if you go abroad, most countries will have a tourist tax of something like a Euro per night and you will see very flashy and professional tourist centres which are funded by the tourist tax so that is something we need to think about.
“Whether the tourist tax would work in Angus, I am not sure – there are some very fragile tourist related businesses.
“But I don’t think we should rule it out for complexity’s sake, where there is a will there’s a way.”
Carnoustie Independent Brian Boyd, who is involved in the holiday let industry, said: “From personal experience I don’t see any problem with bringing this forward.
“I don’t think we’ve a fragile economy as far as tourism in Angus is concerned.”
The Angus response also suggested the idea of applying a tourist tax on day visitors could present “real practical challenges”.
It also said a disembarkation or mooring tax on cruise ship passengers would be more easily administered, but raised a concern over the potential disincentive that might create for visiting vessels.
Angus Provost Ronnie Proctor said: “ At the moment this is a consultation and we will submit our comment, which I think is fair and balanced and gives bags of wriggle room if this was to come in.”