The passing of the vote in favour of implementing a tourist tax in the City of Edinburgh today marks an important point in the story towards mobilizing tourism revenue to support local culture.
In our recent report Traditional Music and the Rural Creative Economy in Argyll and Bute, we made a radical suggestion that local, traditional arts could be supported through the use of a tourist (or ‘bed’) tax in Argyll and Bute. Everywhere around the UK, local authorities have been busy cutting back on spending on the arts. This week also saw the story of Midlothian council and Moray council in Scotland removing completely (in the former) and massively reducing (in the latter) their peripatetic music provision.
A small tourist tax in the regional economy, could be a way to properly fund the public good aspects of traditional arts that feed in so vitally to cultural tourism. It has been happening elsewhere with huge success in places like Asheville, North Carolina (where the taxes raise $202million/year and offset local residents’ tax to the tune of around $1800/year), Istanbul, and elsewhere for years. Nova Scotia, is one particular example of strategic economic regional growth being founded upon a performing arts and cultural offer.
All traditional arts organizations and individuals should now be considering this, especially when one considers that the UK is highly unlikely to ever sign up to the 2003 convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage, and to publicly fund these aspects of our artistic heritage (as is the case in for instance, Ireland or Portugal). In an Anglo-American context like the UK, the best chance of funding the public good aspects of tuition, exhibitions, festivals, physical resources and rural touring comes from cultural tourism and this can develop as we have seen elsewhere, into an economically sustainable circle.
Time now to lobby the Scottish Parliament as they vote on this, and to speak to our local councillors about the positive aspects of this proposal.