CRUISE ships visiting Scotland are set to be charged a levy by local councils, the Scottish Government has announced.

During her speech at the Scottish Greens party conference Lorna Slater, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, said that she would be bringing forward legislation with the aim of tackling the carbon emissions from cruise ships and raising money for local authorities.

She said: “We will work with our partners in Local Government to empower councils to charge visiting cruise ships a levy.

“This will mean communities that host cruise ships get the investment they deserve, and it is my intention is to ensure that Councils are empowered to charge the most polluting ships more.

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“This is essential – a typical ship produces the same amount of carbon emissions as 12,000 cars; operators have been allowed to get away with polluting for too long.

“A cruise ship levy will empower councils to help tackle this global problem.”

The policy announcement is part of a global trend which seeks to cut down on emissions from the sector.

A recent study found the average carbon footprint of a large cruise ship is greater than the combined emissions of 12,000 cars.

Europe’s most polluted port, Barcelona, announced a ban on cruise ships to their city, while Norway will refuse to allow all but zero emission ships to sail its famous fjords in two years.

China unveiled its first battery-powered electric cruise ship last month.

According to VisitScotland, more than 800,000 cruise passengers visited Scotland in 2019 with around 900 calls to port.

Industry group Cruise Scotland have predicted numbers will rise to one million passengers this year.

Scottish Greens transport and environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “From Ullapool to Greenock, Kirkwall to Edinburgh, Stornoway to Rosyth and many more besides, this will make a massive difference in supporting communities.

“For all the benefits tourism brings, pressure on infrastructure, services and how lives of locals in port areas are impacted need properly targeted help and this helps.

“We also know that such action is steering the cruise industry towards investing in a greener and cleaner future, and we want to support a responsible and sustainable activity, so it is right that we play a leading role in accelerating that change." 

Slater also said that the government will be exploring the implementation of a carbon land tax, which would see large landowners charged according to the potential and reality of carbon sequestration occurring on their property.

She added: “Conference, we are taking the first step towards a carbon land tax.

“I’m pleased to announce today that the Scottish Government will, in partnership with colleagues in councils, explore a local carbon land tax and other policy options to create a fiscal incentive to restore peatlands and create more woodland, with a view to consulting on the preferred option.”

Earlier this year, The National reported on the range of community groups, charities, trade unions and businesses who all supported calls for a carbon land tax on landholdings over 1000 hectares.