Scottish government removes boat moorings and berthings from ‘tourist tax’

Scotland visitor levy boats Credit – PFM Pictures – Marc Turner

The Scottish government has officially agreed to remove boat moorings and berthings from the scope of a new national visitor levy, unless the vessels are permanently moored and used for accommodation.

“We are immensely pleased that, having listened to our representations, the Scottish government has accepted our case and now agreed that boat moorings and berthings should not be included in the legislation and will now bring forward an amendment,” says Sarah Kennedy, chair, British Marine Scotland.

The ‘tourist tax’ will, where applicable as its discretionary, make accommodation providers liable for calculating and charging a levy on overnight visitor accommodation. The tax was first proposed in 2023. This week, MSPs approved — by 86 votes to 30 — the general principles of a bill which would empower councils to introduce the levy.

The move to remove boat moorings and berthings from the bill is welcomed by marine tourism stakeholders and the parliamentary committee leading on the bill.

“This is a huge relief as, without the amendment, the visitor levy would place an excessive burden on mooring providers, which includes many small businesses and voluntary organisations. Both the charge and administrative costs would otherwise have to be passed on to boaters irrespective of whether onboard accommodation is ever utilised or is even possible,” says Kennedy.

“We trust that the Scottish parliament will support this forthcoming amendment and so help protect Scotland’s world-renowned leisure marine tourism offer.”

Scotland visitor levy boats

Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine adds: “This decision to amend the bill comes following strong collaborative representations by leisure marine and tourism partners, led by British Marine Scotland, supported by British Marine’s public affairs team.

“It has demonstrated a willingness by the government to listen and better understand the unique complexities of Scotland’s marine tourism sector. This amendment will help safeguard leisure marine businesses and ensure boating in Scotland remains appealing to all. This decision is a significant win for British Marine Scotland and the entire boating community, reinforcing our commitment to promoting and protecting marine tourism.”

The Scottish government’s decision to introduce this amendment follows the Lead Committee’s recommendations and the evidence it received from stakeholders, including British Marine Scotland’s response on behalf of the leisure marine industry, informed by The Yacht Harbour Association (TYHA) and backed by evidence from other organisations including RYA Scotland.

“We are also very grateful to the role of the cross-party group on Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism and its convenor, Stuart McMillan MSP, who helped to facilitate discussions with the minister and his officials, alongside significant support from Marc Crothall and the Scottish Tourism Alliance,” says Kennedy.

“The Scottish government’s response to the lead committee’s report on the principles of the bill suggests a more balanced approach, taking account of the diverse interests of tourism stakeholders, community groups and local authorities.

“Its decision to bring forward an amendment to remove boat moorings and berthings from the bill is not just a relief but a celebration of what can be achieved when the Scottish government listens and takes time to work with industry. This amendment will help ensure that Scotland remains a premier destination for boating enthusiasts and continues to contribute to the sustainable economic growth of Scotland’s economy.

“We at British Marine Scotland are delighted with this development and look forward to continued collaboration with the Scottish government to support and enhance marine tourism.”

All images courtesy of PFM Pictures/Marc Turner via British Marine.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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