Scotland considers “tourist tax” scheme

Following the footsteps of other European countries including Spain and Greece, Scotland is currently considering a “tourist tax” scheme.

The plans were passed by MPs with an overwhelming majority and the Scottish government has suggested 2026 as a goal for launching. The scheme would involve adding a surcharge to the cost of overnight accommodation for visitors to the country. This would include campsites and touring parks, as well as hotels, self-catered accommodation and potentially cruises.

Why is Scotland considering a tourist tax?

In part, it seems to have come about as a response to increased tourism from motorhomes and campervans; Scotland is, after all, a well liked destination for ‘van owners, with routes such as the North Coast 500 proving popular.

In a meeting of Parliament on 28th May, the MP for Orkney, Liam McArthur stated; “Over recent years, in my Orkney constituency and across the Highlands and Islands, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of motorhomes making up a part of the tourism sector…I am not trying to make an argument about whether that is a good thing or a bad thing—that is for another debate—but what is beyond doubt is the fact that the increased volumes are putting additional pressure on services and infrastructure in Orkney and other parts of the country.”

The proposal has also drawn mixed reactions from residents and ministers, who argue that a considerable exemption scheme will be needed as well as assurances that money raised will be invested back into local authorities.

What does it mean for motorhomers?

This could have an impact for ‘van owners pitching up at the best motorhome sites in Scotland, while it will be up to local authorities to implement the tax and accommodation providers to collect it. Although business have voiced concerns about the admin and tax implications of the scheme, government data suggests 17 of 23 Scottish councils back the plans.

The Scottish government Minister for Employment and Investment, Tom Arthur, acknowledged that increased motorhome tourism can “place particular pressure on smaller communities” but asserted that “recent research by VisitScotland has shown the benefits that motorhomes can bring to the visitor economy.” He told Parliament that he intends “to engage during the summer on the issue of a cruise ship levy and to further explore measures regarding motorhomes.”

If you’re in the process of planning a visit to Scotland this year and will be touring in a self-contained ‘van, you could benefit from the Stay the Night scheme. In operation at a small selection of Forestry and Land Scotland car parks, the initiative allows self-contained ‘vans to stay overnight between 6pm and 10am.

Lead image: Getty Images

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Motorhome magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things motorhome related.