A BILL allowing local councils to bring in a tourist tax to raise funds for local services has been published.

The Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill was published on Thursday morning, and if passed by MSPs, will give councils the ability to add a tax on overnight accommodation, based on a percentage of the total costs.

It is estimated that this could cost around £2 per night for tourists in cities like Edinburgh, but councils will have to consult with local communities, businesses and tourism organisations before going ahead with the charge.

Local authorities will also have to consult on where the proceeds of the levy will be spent before the tax is introduced officially.

READ MORE: Trident: MoD confirms more than 50 radiation leaks this year

The Scottish Government said that all funds raised must be reinvested into the local community, on facilities and services used by visitors, benefitting the local area and economy, and enhancing the tourist experience.

The plans are part of the New Deal for Local Government, which aims to give local authorities more financial flexibility.

Tom Arthur, public finance minister, said that Scotland is already a “very popular tourist destination” and visitors have a “significant and positive” impact on the Scottish economy.

“Giving councils the power to introduce a visitor levy is one tool that will provide additional resources to continue to attract visitors to Scotland,” he said.

“Levies on visitors staying in paid-for accommodation are already used around the world and it is reasonable for local areas to want a small contribution from tourists to help support and sustain visitor economies.

“There have been significant contributions to the Bill so far from the tourism industry, Cosla and other partners and I look forward to continuing to work with them as it progresses through Parliament.”

The Scottish Government has also invited representatives from the tourism industry, Cosla and other partners to join an expert group to consider how the tourist tax could best be implemented if passed.

Katie Hagmann, Cosla’s resources spokesperson, said that the umbrella body for council’s welcomed the move to introduce a tourist tax.

“This represents a key step towards reaching Cosla’s long-standing goal of a more empowered Scottish local government,” she said.

“Cosla has consistently called for the ability of councils to set and raise taxes based on what is needed and decided locally.

“By providing each local authority with the power to set a rate charged to visitors, and to do so independently of the Scottish Government, the Local Visitor Levy empowers local decision-making, with councils able to respond to the needs of their area and the people who live there.

“Cosla is well aware that Scotland’s councils and communities have a great diversity of needs - what works for one council will not necessarily be suitable for another.

“We welcome the flexibility offered by this legislation, and will consider if there are opportunities for it to go further. We are looking forward to seeing further investment both in tourism and our communities in the future.”

The tourist tax will apply to hotels, hostels, guest houses, B&Bs, self catering accommodation, camping sites and caravan parks, as well as boat moorings and berthings.

It also covers accommodation “in a vehicle or on board a vessel” which is permanently or mostly housed in one place, and any other place where a room or accommodation is offered that is not the visitors “only or usual place of residence”.

Local councils will have to agree a percentage rate for the levy ahead of its introduction, with the onus on those providing the tourist accommodation to ensure the tax is paid.

The 36-page bill sets out how accommodation owners will have to provide invoices to tourists setting out the cost of the overnight stay, the percentage rate of the levy and how much the tax will cost.

Local authorities will also be required to tell Scottish ministers when they have decided to introduce a tourist tax, and publicise it.