Highlands & Islands

Tourist tax suggested for Isle of Skye

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Media captionA busy tourist season is putting strain on Skye's infrastructure and visitor facilities

A businessman who regularly cleans up mess left behind by visitors to Skye says a tourist tax would help pay for more facilities.

Roger Booth, who owns a food van at the Quiraing, tidies away litter on a daily basis at the beauty spot, as well as human waste on occasions.

He said a small fee charged at the Skye Bridge would help pay for more public toilets and better car parking.

Mr Booth said: "Even £1 a person, I am sure people wouldn't complain."

He added: "It would be put into the island economy for better toilets, better waste facilities, better parking facilities and better roads."

The Quiraing has long been a popular destination for hillwalkers.

Mr Booth said: "True walkers want to come here and enjoy it and not see the mess and be driven off and not want to come back."

Long term plan

Other local business owners have said they would support a tourist tax, or similar charge.

The island's local authority, Highland Council, said a change in laws would be needed for a new tax.

A spokeswoman said: "We would need legislative change to be able to levy any tourist tax so this is not an option currently available to Highland Council."

The leader of Highland Council, Margaret Davidson, said it would only become clear if such a tax would work well in the region once the local authority had spoken to more businesses.

But David Richardson, Federation of Small Businesses' development manager for the Highlands and Islands, said taxing tourists was a bad idea.

He said: "We would be totally opposed to it.

"They are our customers and you don't tax your customers."

Image copyright Staffin Community Trust
Image caption Scenic spots on Skye draw thousands of visitors

Last year, a Highland councillor suggested a tax on hotel rooms would raise millions of pounds to improve facilities and attractions across the Highlands region.

Maxine Smith, leader of the SNP group on the local authority, said the charge paid by tourists worked well in other parts of Europe and the US.

Skye has experienced rising numbers of tourists in recent years, with thousands of people visiting the island this summer.

Last month, Rob Ware, secretary of tourism group Skyeconnect, said the isle needs a strategy looking ahead 30 years.

Islanders have also demanded greater availability of public toilets after complaints that some visitors to the isle are relieving themselves outside.

There have been incidents reported at scenic spots where public conveniences are lacking or have been closed down.

In Uig, where many of the complaints have been raised, the local authority-run toilets have been out of order since the beginning of the year.

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