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Could putting a charge on the golden egg kill the Festival goose? Is the mention of a tourist tax enough to scare away the crowds, or would it make any difference at all?
Well, it’s over for another year - so it’s time to start the controversy for next year’s 69th Edinburgh International Festival. In a plot worthy of a dodgy student play in a lock up garage on a peripheral housing estate - let’s say a contemporary dance interpretation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spylaw - Edinburgh City Council is reported to be considering a tax to support Festival events.
It’s rather unclear from the recent report in the Scotsman as to which events the Councillor in charge of cultural events may have been referring. The piece doesn’t differentiate between the International Festival (the posh frocks and opera original incarnation of the Festival) or the Fringe (the dungarees and dungeons version that’s grown to massively eclipse its more haughty bedfellow). Nor indeed does the piece mention the other festivals - such as “Book”, “Television”, “Winter”, “Film” or, save us, “Politics Festival” (from which we were indeed saved this year).
Where does this leave us?
Right now, nothing has changed and it’s all speculation on the part of the media, as far as we can see. However, that’s not to say the idea of tourism taxes is something new. There are many instances of taxes slapped on unsuspecting visitors who have the temerity to do anything as detrimental to the local economy as … visit and spend their money in the local economy.
Many governments, local authorities, and entrepreneurial quangos around the world find ways to levy extra charges to raise funds for projects that we’d defy anyone to name, let alone point out. Hotel overnight taxes; travel taxes; attraction taxes; eco taxes; and the insidious departure taxes are all quite common ways of relieving you of extra cash while away in unfamiliar locations.
What’s being proposed for Edinburgh though makes all the others seem straight forward, fair, and honest as the day is long. Suggestions include tickets carrying yet another levy; or tourist related businesses (whatever they may or may not be) might pay an extra charge.
“I bought a ticket for the Festival. I paid the booking fee, the administration charge, the VAT, the payment method fee, the climate change levy, the departure from the venue tax, the seat upgrade fee, and the Festival support tax. Once Springfords sorted out who owed what to whom, they threw in a performance for free.”
No, we don’t think that’ll be the Joke of the Year next year either.
Meanwhile, the Scotsman’s sister paper - the Edinburgh Evening News - has just reported a record year all-round for the 2015 festivals. Great news for the economy and lots of potential for the cash strapped Council to raise a penny or two in future taxes then!