LOCAL authorities are “delighted” that councils will be given discretion over how to spend cash raised through a tourist tax, a Cosla spokesperson has said.

On Thursday, the Scottish Government published the first draft of the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood, which will allow councils to levy a charge on overnight visitors.

The plans also give local authorities autonomy to set the percentage rate for the tourist tax, and on what the funds raised will be spent on.

READ MORE: Tourist tax: New bill to allow Scottish councils to bring in levy

While the legislation sets out that the money raised must be reinvested locally in facilities or services used by tourists, public finance minister Tom Arthur said the bill allows for a “wide scope” of what they may be.

Speaking at a press launch for the bill at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, Cosla’s resources spokesperson Katie Hagmann welcomed the flexibility it gives to local councils.

“I would say I’m delighted, not just happy, because absolutely, this is something we’ve been lobbying for and it's really wonderful to see that coming forward,” she said.

“We’ve got a really positive chance to have that partnership working with local government and Scottish Government, and certainly empowering local authorities in giving that discretion is absolutely welcomed.”

The National: The tourist tax bill was published on ThursdayThe tourist tax bill was published on Thursday

Hagmann said that the local authority umbrella body acknowledged it would be up to individual councils whether or not to introduce the levy, and that each will have different requirements from local communities and businesses. The Visitor Levy Bill sets out that councils must consult with the local community before introducing the tax, and will also have to consult on how it will be spent.

“In terms of what’s going to happen, some local authorities it wouldn’t be relevant for, others are keen, but there will be a long consultation period with the communities, with the business owners, with local authorities and in conjunction with the bill going through,” Hagmann said.

“So there would be a long lead in time if local authorities decided to take advantage of that legislation.”

Public finance minister Arthur told journalists that local authorities will not have to get approval from ministers on how to spend the money raised through the levy, as it's a local power.

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However, asked if hypothetically cities like Edinburgh could direct the funds towards cleansing services or other departments such as roads, Arthur said that the bill gives authorities discretionary power.

“The legislation as set out creates a wide scope for facilities and services which support the visitor economy,” Arthur said.

“So decisions around the implementation of the visitor levy on decisions around how that revenue is used will have to be consistent with the legislation.

“This will be a local power, it will be a discretionary power for councils and they will ultimately be the ones who have to determine whether or not to administer it,” he added.

Arthur added that the legislation sets out requirements for local authorities who want to introduce a levy will not only have to consult with local businesses and the community, but ensure any revenue raised is spent in a way that is “most effective for their local visitor economy”.

“One of the requirements set out in the legislation is that for any local authority wanting to introduce the visitor levy, they will have to consult with business and the local community to ensure that any revenue raised is applied in a way that is most effective for their local visitor economy,” Arthur added.

“The legislation is a product of close engagement and consultation, and indeed any local council, and remember this is a discretionary power, it is for councils to decide whether or not they wish to introduce it.”