Policy & Campaigns

The Scottish Tourism Alliance work hard to bring the big issues which affect our industry to the attention of policy makers and Scottish Government.

When we come together, the voice of the tourism industry is amplified. 

Our overarching aim remains to act as the voice of industry to influence outcomes and bring forward benefits, so that businesses can grow and be more profitable.

We continue to campaign on the issues that affect the growth and sustainability of our tourism industry such as tourism VAT, infrastructure, digital and skills.  It is your voice that gives us a voice so please share your thoughts and experiences with us as this gives us a stronger voice to influence future policy in a range of areas.


Ferries situation

Scottish Tourism Alliance response

16 May 2018

"The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) has requested an urgent meeting with the Tourism Minister, Fiona Hyslop MSP to discuss the mounting concerns within Scotland’s tourism industry around the current issues around planning, procurement and reliability of our ferries service and have been assured that there is a commitment from the Scottish Government for that meeting to take place as soon as possible.

The STA had a meeting with Transport Scotland on 20th April and took with them two of their Council representatives, the chair of the Scottish Destination Management Association (SDMA), Robert Kidd and Director of Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) Rob McKinnon. The purpose of the meeting was to make the senior Transport Scotland ferries directorate fully aware of the current impact that the ongoing ferries issue is having on the islands’ tourism economy. 

Further dialogue is being planned and the organisation continues to have ongoing conversations with CalMac.  Data and evidence is also currently being gathered from STA industry stakeholders through associations such as Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) and the Argyll & Isles Tourism Co-Operative (AITC). We look to sharing this with Transport Scotland officials and at forthcoming  meetings with the Cabinet Secretary. We very much hope that this meeting will happen within the next two to three weeks."

In the news 


Tourist Tax

STA Position

“The STA recognises that there is a need across most destinations for an increased level of long term sustainable investment to enable quality marketing of the destinations and to help continually raise the quality of the offering, visitor experience and overall appeal of the destination.  However applying a further cost to visitors is in our opinion not a sensible approach to take.  

While a tourism tax may work well for tourism businesses, destinations and local authorities in other global destinations where the level of VAT is below half of the UK rate, the idea must be examined within the context of the UK having the second highest VAT rates in Europe and indeed within what has been increasingly referred to as the ‘perfect storm’ of costs that tourism businesses in Scotland currently face. The introduction of a tourism tax would reduce the competitiveness of our already heavily taxed sector relative to competitor destinations and ultimately could have a potentially devastating long-term impact on Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies.  It would also negatively impact businesses that rely on the tourism economy beyond the hospitality sector by reducing visitor spending right across the industry; in pubs, restaurants, shops, cafes, visitor attractions.  

The need for Scotland to remain, and indeed become more competitive as a destination for visitors to travel to and spend money in is now greater than ever in relation to our impending exit from the EU. Coupled with this the associated challenges our tourism industry is likely to bear as a result of already increasing costs on top of any such visitor tax / levy being applied is counterproductive and would potentially cause a decline in visitation especially from the squeezed domestic market and in secondary tourism expenditure”.

Key points 

  • Many STA members, The British Hospitality Association, Federation of Small Businesses and The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers have also expressed opposition to calls for a tourist tax.
  • Scotland is already expensive to visit. UK tourism as a whole is already globally ranked 135th of 136 countries when it comes to price competitiveness due to “existing high levels of taxation”.
  • A tourist tax would make Scotland less competitive, working against efforts to increase visitor numbers and revenues, fundamental to the national Tourism Scotland 2020 strategy.  

In the news 


Business Rates

All non-domestic properties need to pay business rates, similar to individuals paying council tax. The revenue raised is used as part of the funding for local services.

Our campaign around the Business Rates revaluation cemented our position as the lead voice of industry and enhanced the relationship we have with Scottish Government and politicians across all parties.

We wrote to the First Minister and other Ministers demanding a need for a review of the business rates revaluation and have had regular dialogue with Scottish Government to convey our views, concerns and evidence from businesses on the devastating impact of the proposed Commercial Rateable Values on Scotland’s tourism industry.

We were hugely boosted and encouraged by the Finance Minister’s announcement of a 12.5% business rates cap for hospitality and licensed trade businesses of one year, a pragmatic move which will allow the Barclay Review group to report on its findings, and for a more equitable process for rates evaluation to be agreed and applied.

Key points

  • There is a fundamental need for the introduction of a business rates system that promotes economic growth, investment and productivity to replace the current system. 
  • The STA, British Hospitality Association and Scottish Licensed Trade Association started a campaign to lower the rate of the business rates increases, resulting in the announcement of a one-year cap of 12.5 % (Real Terms) by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay on February 21 2017.
  • Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs at the STA conference (March 2017) announced that the business rates increase cap would be extended to other accommodation including self-catering, guesthouses, B&B, timeshare units, hostels, camping and caravan sites, subject to confirmation in legislative instrument.
  • The STA, along with our colleagues from The British Hospitality Association and The Scottish Licensed Trade Association continue to work on the industry’s behalf in respect of this issue.

In the news


Air Departure Tax

APD was introduced as a tax to pay for the environmental costs of air travel. There are two travel bands; 1) Short-haul flights 2) long-haul flights. APD is levied against every adult passenger departing from the UK (excluding Northern Ireland and the Scottish Highlands). 

Air Passenger Duty is known in Scotland as Air Departure Tax.  The name was changed to Air Departure Tax as it better reflects the general scope of the tax, which is charged on passengers departing by air from Scottish airports, and also ensures that there is no confusion with Air Passenger Duty, which will continue to operate in the rest of the UK after 1 April 2018.

Powers to replace UK APD were devolved to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Bill. 

The environmental impacts of reducing the tax are being carefully considered through a Strategic Environmental Assessment.

STA Position 

We would urge the Scottish Government to implement its promised 50% cut in ADT at the earliest opportunity. 

The longer this regressive tax is in place, the longer it will damage Scotland’s economy, our tourism potential and ability to prosper as a nation, a fact that has also been recognised by our business and tourism partners.  

The reduction and eventual abolition of ADT will play a major role in strengthening Scotland’s connectivity, boosting the economy by an additional £1 billion, delivering 4,000 jobs, growing tourism and creating prosperity for Scotland.

In the news 


The positioning of the tourism sector 

The future and sustainability of our tourism sector is dependent on the flow of a skilled, talented, professional workforce coming into our businesses and we ask that the Scottish Government increases investment into developing Scotland’s young people to grow our tourism industry for the future and retain its position as Scotland’s biggest economic driver.  

This can only happen with support from the Scottish Government to position tourism as a growth industry, one of job creation and opportunity, and the demonstration of government commitment to driving skills development within the sector through the right balance of taxation and investment.  

The tourism sector has an enormous skills and resource gap with the industry experiencing huge uncertainty over retention and future attraction of our migrant workforce, a vital part of our industry.  Investment in home-grown talent is essential and up-weighting of the funding available for skills development in areas such as leadership, digital and vocational skilling is a requirement to support the positioning and promotion of tourism as a sector of opportunity.  Tourism businesses value their teams and a reduction in the overall cost of doing business would enable businesses within the sector to invest in skills development and training, become more competitive in price and deliver the visitor expectations of a quality, memorable experience. 


Policy Agenda 

Policy Agenda for the 2016-2020 Scottish Governmentdownload here