Cruise Ship, RV and Camping Fees – Sea Shipping/Shipping

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Following recent updates to the Visitor Levy Bill consultation, the Scottish Government and councils are now considering charges for cruise ships, motorhomes and campsites. The proposed legislation would allow councils to tax overnight stayers and would operate in much the same way as a visitor’s levy.

After ours the latest update on the Levy Bill visitor consultation, in this article we now focus on the additional charges discussed by the Scottish Government and councils relating to cruise ships, motorhomes and camping. The proposed legislation would allow councils to tax overnight stayers and would operate in much the same way as a visitor levy.

Around 817,000 cruise passengers visited Scotland in 2019, with the number expected to rise to over a million. Other European destinations such as Barcelona and Venice have recently announced total bans on cruise ships, citing pollution and pressure on local infrastructure. In Amsterdam, passenger charges led to a 40% drop in port stops.

Scotland’s proposed cruise charge is targeting the “twin” issues of emissions and the negative impact on tourist-heavy port communities. Lorna Slater, co-chair of the Scottish Green Party, said the levy “will mean cruise ship hosting communities get the investment they deserve and encourage greener ships”. The move follows similar developments in Orkney, where the local council recently introduced a policy restricting cruise ship entry due to concerns about overcrowding.

The camping levy proposals follow calls largely driven by Highland Council during the Visitor Levy Bill consultation process. The council argued that campers were causing overcrowding in parts of Scotland but were an important part of Scotland’s rural tourism industry. The council’s argument is that while remote areas in the north of Scotland currently bear the burden of hosting huge numbers of motorhomes and wild caravans, they do not currently benefit from nightly charges to offset these costs. However, others, such as Gail Macgregor, economics spokeswoman for local government body the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, suggested that taxing those living outside the designated areas could be “difficult” and cost more to collect than it raises in return.

Other ministers suggested that the Visitor Charges Bill could be amended to include these amendments. However, the Scottish Government has stressed that it does not want to “delay this bill and the power it will give to local authorities”, so it is probably more likely that if proposals are made for these other charges instead, they will be dealt with separately at a later date.

It remains to be seen whether the Highland Council’s campsite proposals will go ahead and details of what the cruise fee would entail are currently limited. Initial government plans for cruises suggest a flexible rate varying by ship capacity, length of visit and emissions rating. For campsites, it is possible that, similar to the Visitor Act, a discretionary levy across Scotland would be appropriate, allowing councils in the most affected areas to take advantage of this without placing a similar burden on councils where the problem is less important.

This article was co-authored Killian Dockrellintern in the real estate and infrastructure team.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the issue. Professional advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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