Nicola Sturgeon has signalled that the Scottish Government could perform a U-turn and grant councils the power to levy a “tourist tax”.
Local authorities in Aberdeen, Moray and Highland have all demanded the ability to raise extra funds by charging visitors to their areas.
Scottish ministers previously insisted there were “no plans” to hand over the powers and that such a move would not be considered without support from hospitality businesses.
But yesterday Ms Sturgeon suggested the so-called “transient visitor levy” would be considered in the run-up to the next Scottish budget.
Challenged on the issue by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard at first minister’s questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “It is not currently Scottish Government policy to have a tourist tax, but of course we will continue to have that discussion and we will continue to consider these matters as we approach our budget this year.”
She added: “A responsible government should responsibly consider the matter and listen to all the arguments before we come to a decision and that is what we will do.
“We will do that in the run-up to the publication of our draft budget and perhaps beyond it, and we will make sure that our decision making is properly informed by evidence.”
Last week, Highland Council convener Bill Lobban told MSPs that a £1-a-night levy could pave the way for a £120 million capital spending spree on roads, car parks and toilets.
And Aberdeen City Council’s co-leader Jenny Laing said the money would be reinvested in cultural facilities to help the local economy prepare for its post-oil future.
Last night, Mr Leonard said: “Nicola Sturgeon cannot seriously think that increasing the cost of a hotel room by a couple of pounds a night is too high a price to pay for better funded local services.”
Scottish Conservative shadow tourism secretary Rachael Hamilton, however, said: “I believe that a tourism tax would reduce Scotland’s competitiveness and ultimately hurt our tourism industry.