Councils in Scotland will not be able to bring in a tourist tax on hotel stays until the 2021 season at the earliest, Fiona Hyslop has said.
The Tourism Secretary said the scheme would require legislation to be introduced at Holyrood and so it cannot be up and running either this year or next year.
Ms Hyslop also used her speech to a Scottish Tourism Alliance conference in Glasgow to stress there would be “no compulsion” placed on local authorities to introduce the charge.
The Budget deal between the Scottish Government and the Greens included a pledge from ministers to consult on the measure, before bringing legislation to Holyrood that will give local councils the power to introduce a transient visitor levy.
Ms Hyslop said the deal on the charge had come as a “direct result of negotiations with the only party willing to seriously engage in the Budget process”.
The commitment to a tourist tax was a “necessary part of the agreement which enabled us to deliver a Budget that provides certainty and stability to taxpayers and businesses at a time when we face significant challenges from the UK leaving the EU”, she added.
She accepted there are concerns from some in the tourism industry about the move, but she stressed that when legislation is brought forward it “will allow those local authorities that wish to do so, to introduce a tax to meet the needs of their own area”.
Ms Hyslop said: “Let me be clear about two things – firstly, there will be no compulsion for local authorities to implement a tourism tax.
“Secondly, the requirement for the Scottish Parliament to consider legislation means that there will be no tourism tax levied in 2019 or indeed the 2020 season, as consultation, legislation and indeed implementation, if any council wants to introduce a tax, will take some time.”