Council leader floats idea of Festival taxes


Festival promoters have branded the plans 'insanity'

By Kevin Duguid

EDINBURGH Festival fans could be hit with a new “ticket tax” under plans due to be investigated by city chiefs.

The city’s council leader Jenny Dawe thinks the notion of a nominal charge to tickets for shows would be supported by the public.

And she has also called for the idea of a hotel bed tax to be re-examined with the money raised being ring-fenced to improve the city.– an extra charge of around £1 that would be added to a guest’s bill – to be re-examined with the money raised being ring-fenced to improve the city.

The proposals have been branded as “insanity” by both Festival promoters and hoteliers.

Councillor Dawe said: “I have heard the argument made for putting a very small percentage on to Festival tickets and that could even be done on a voluntary basis. If people buy online, for example, there could be a box to tick to put in a small percentage. If people know that it will go towards improving venues there is generally no objection.

“Given the public sector is under increasing pressure with reduced budgets and increasing demand, it is worth looking at different ways we can raise money for things like the cultural sector.”

She said that the issue of the hotel bed tax should be re-examined. The council last proposed the idea five years ago but the proposals were dropped after they met with opposition from Holyrood ministers.

Cllr Dawe believes it is possible for the council to impose a statutory charge.

City council officials are now expected to look into how a Festival and a bed tax could work, but the proposals could struggle to win support.

Artistic director of Assembly Theatre William Burdett-Coutts believes a hotel tax works well in some cities, but said Edinburgh room prices were already high so it may put people off.

He said: “I think it is insane if they try to put this on to Fringe venues because there is just not the money for it.

“The Fringe is very fragile and, while people are making loads of money, it is not actually like that and this would be very dangerous.”

A number of European cities have a statutory bed tax, including Paris, which raises more than £4million a year, which is spent on promoting the city.

It is also used in parts of the US, Germany and Austria, where it is deeply unpopular.

Italy introduced the tax and then scrapped it.

Colin Paton, the chairman of the Edinburgh Hotels Association and chief executive of the Portland Hotels group, said: “This is a knee-jerk reaction to the irresponsible attitude to finance of the SNP in the Scottish Parliament and is just a cash grab.

The council does not fill hotels, it is the free market capitalist businesses that fill hotels.

“We will resist extremely heavily the hotel sector being the milch cow of tourism.”

He added that work was taking place with tourism body Marketing Edinburgh to find a way of the tourism sector helping to fund its work – and that a possible bed tax could “put the brakes” on these discussions.