Following recent Visitor Levy Bill consultation updates, the Scottish Government and councils are now considering levies for cruise ships, motorhomes, and camping. Proposed legislation would allow councils to tax those staying overnight, operating in much the same manner as the Visitor Levy would.

Following our recent updates on the Visitor Levy Bill consultation, in this article we now put a spotlight on additional levies being discussed by the Scottish Government and councils relating to cruise ships, motorhomes, and camping. Proposed legislation would allow councils to tax those staying overnight, operating in much the same manner as the Visitor Levy would.

Around 817,000 cruise ship passengers visited Scotland in 2019, with the number expected to rise to over a million. Other European destinations such as Barcelona and Venice have recently announced bans on cruise ships altogether, citing pollution and pressure on local infrastructure. In Amsterdam, passenger levies led to a 40% fall in port calls.

The proposed cruise levy in Scotland is geared at the "twin" problems of emissions and negative impact on port communities with large tourist footfall. Lorna Slater, Co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, stated the levy "will mean communities hosting cruise ships get the investment they deserve and encourage greener ships". The move follows similar developments in Orkney, where the local council recently introduced a policy to limit cruise ship admissions, following concerns about overcrowding.

The camping levy proposals follow calls driven largely by the Highland Council during the Visitor Levy Bill's consultation process. The council alleged that campers cause overcrowding in parts of Scotland but are a vital part of Scotland's tourism industry in rural areas. The council's argument is that whilst remote areas in the north of Scotland currently bear the burden of hosting vast amounts of roadside motorhome and wild campers, they currently do not benefit from overnight fees to counteract these costs. However, others such as Gail Macgregor, economy spokesperson for local government body the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, have suggested that taxing those staying outside dedicated sites may be "onerous" and cost more to collect than it raises in return.

Other Ministers have suggested that the Visitor Levy Bill may be amended to include these additions. However, the Scottish Government have stressed that they do not want to "delay this bill and the power it will give to local authorities" so it is perhaps more likely that if proposals for these other levies are taken forward instead, these would be addressed separately at a later date.

It remains to be seen whether Highland Council's camping proposals will come into force and details of what the cruise levy would entail are currently limited. Initial Government intentions regarding cruises suggest a flexible rate varying by ship capacity, visit length, and emissions ratings. It is possible for camping that like the Visitor Levy Bill, a discretionary levy across Scotland would be appropriate to allow councils in the most heavily affected areas to utilise this, without placing a similar onus on councils where the issue is of less concern.

This article was co-authored by Killian Dockrell, Trainee in the property and infrastructure team.

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