TOURISTS taking advantage of Scotland’s scenic rural roads – such as the hugely popular North Coast 500 – may face additional taxes to help maintain routes, it has emerged.

Officials examining plans to give councils the power to levy a new tourist tax said the rate could apply to infrastructure and campsites as well as city accommodation.

This would allow remote areas that experience heavy caravan use to bring in additional charges at stop-over sites – while ferries over to Scotland’s islands may also implement extra costs.

It comes as Edinburgh Council reiterated its proposals to tax tourists one or two pounds a night in a bid to raise £11 million in extra cash.

Cosla, which represents local government and lobbies on its behalf, is calling for councils to be handed beefed-up financial powers which would give them the ability to introduce a “transient visitor tax”, or tourist tax.

It said Scottish ministers were increasingly open to the move, which would require new laws to be passed at Holyrood.

The UK is currently one of only nine EU countries that does not charge a tourist tax, which is often raised per person per night in hotels, or per room per night.

Cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin charge a tax as a proportion of the total accommodation fee paid, while on the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily a one-off charge is applied.

Edinburgh Council recently voted to push ahead with plans to lobby the Scottish Government to introduce its own tourist tax, which it insisted would add “less than the price of a cup of coffee” to visitors’ bills.

City leader Adam McVey said introducing a levy of one or two pounds a night would raise around £11 million, which would then be reinvested into infrastructure and local services.

But he also raised the prospect of charges centred around existing infrastructure, adding: “Edinburgh Airport, for example, has been very supportive of the transient visitor levy, and also want to have a wider conversation about what it’s applied to.

“If the airport wanted to voluntarily enter that scheme along with night visitors who are staying in the city, we would be absolutely delighted for elements of that to be included.

“But we would have no plans to add additional fares on trams or buses or anything like that. But if other key partners, part of the city’s infrastructure like the airport, wanted to be part of that discussion we would be open to it.”

A new paper released by Cosla also insists any tax “does not necessarily need to be limited to accommodation; there are other aspects which local authorities could determine based on local circumstances.”

Vicki Bibby, chief officer for local government finance at Cosla, said rural areas could raise the tax through other means where there is heavy traffic from caravans and campervans, for example.

She said the detail on how this would work was open to consultation, while also raising the prospect of extra charges on ferry tickets.

But critics said a tax on tourism was “an unpopular idea with businesses from Edinburgh to Ullapool”.

Garry Clark of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Firms are concerned about the administrative impact and are worried about the message it sends to guests.

“Further, there’s been few promises from councils that all of the money raised from this levy will be used to boost business or tourism.

“While we understand the pressure on municipal budgets, we’re absolutely unconvinced that this is the right way to go.”