Lochcarron calls for visitor vehicle levy to temper over-tourism

Ross-Shire Journal – Scott MacLennan 

A new proposal with a Highland slant to tackle over-tourism and generate funds for the public purse has emerged suggesting a levy targetting visitor vehicles may be more effective in the north than a tourist tax on accommodation.

Lochcarron man Robin Pettigrew, a chartered member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, has issued a report titled ‘Tourism: But not at any price’ seeking a way forward amid the ongoing debate about how to financially maintain services and protect the region.

The report is explicit about the problems: “The success of VisitScotland and other agencies in delivering an ever-increasing number of visitors to Scotland has unfortunately not been matched with sufficient infrastructure investment to accommodate them.
“This is having a massive environmental impact across Scotland – extensive litter and human waste pollution, destruction of and damage to flora and fauna, erosion of road verges by parked cars and vans, obstruction to other road users (including emergency services), fouling of watercourses by chemical waste, barbeques and campfires.”

So how can new infrastructure be developed and existing services maintained and see improvements to the situation? Mr Pettigrew argues that “a vehicle-based tax is not only fairer but it will bring in a similar level of revenue.”

Regarding the visitor vehicle tax, according to an engagement by the local authority, it appears to be popular: “All visitors are charged per vehicle per night. Viewed by most in the Highland Council consultation as fairer.
There is no denying a sense of frustration too as those in power are not listening to local people’s concerns and instead tell them tourism is only a positive.

“Vehicles of residents and businesses in the Highland council area would be exempt. Other exemptions (e.g. family visiting) would also be possible. There is the potential to use Automatic Number Plate Recognition.”

He said: “There are people in the central belt who have a lot of ill-informed and untested assumptions about tourism in the Highlands including the NC500

“While I don’t want to single out any particular minister, however when we approached one, the response was that campervans help tourism in the Highlands and benefit the region financially yet the evidence that we have points in the exact opposite position.

“When the NC500 was dreamt up they did not consult anybody in the Highlands at any point, there were only discussions between Highland Council, Visit Scotland the NC500 people and other organisations.