Political figures give backing to caravan campaign

No vat on statics. GG 1405008 12
No vat on statics. GG 1405008 12

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to object to government plans for a 20 percent tax levy on static caravans which could aid the death of the region’s tourist industry.

Following the announcement last month that the government plans to bring in the 20 percent hike on static caravans from October this year, which are currently immune to the tax, business owners put their full weight behind a campaign to save the tourism branch of Dumfries and Galloway.

The "no vat" meeting at Auchenlarie, pictured are Russell Brown MP, Jeanette Wilson, Policy Director BH&HPA, Marshall and Paul Swalwell, Auchenlarie Holiday Park. GG 1405007 12

The "no vat" meeting at Auchenlarie, pictured are Russell Brown MP, Jeanette Wilson, Policy Director BH&HPA, Marshall and Paul Swalwell, Auchenlarie Holiday Park. GG 1405007 12

A sign-written static caravan adjacent to the A75 at Auchenlarie hopes to raise awareness of the plans.

Duncan McCready of D&M Leisure Park at Luce Bay, who joined scores of concerned businessfolk including members of the Swalwell Holiday Group who own three holiday parks nearby, backed the petition and said: “The Government’s decision to introduce VAT on static caravans adds 20 percent to their cost at a time local holiday park owners simply can’t afford it.

“There is deep anxiety about what this decision will mean for our industry, and tourism in our region as a whole. The knock-on effect to other local businesses, like shops, pubs and visitor attractions, will be huge. Many rely on holiday park visitors for much of their income, and if fewer people are staying on the parks many of these small businesses will end up closing.”

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown, who helped to alunch the petition, said: “This is a tourism tax being forced on our area by the UK Government. By their own admission, their plans to bring in VAT for static caravans will result in a 30 percent drop in sales. There are over 50 such holiday parks in Dumfries and Galloway and this tourism tax is a devastating attack on Dumfries and Galloway’s tourism sector at a time when our local economy is really struggling. Make no mistake, if the Government goes through with this there will be job losses in our area as a result.”

And SNP MSP Dr Aileen McLeod also backed the campaign. She said: “I support the petition and hope it goes some way in forcing the UK Government to rethink their position.

“I appreciate the strength of feeling on the VAT rate hike for static caravans and have had a number of constituents from across Dumfries and Galloway get in touch with me about this. I have in fact also written to Vince Cable about this given the difficulties many in the South of Scotland will face in the tourism sector as a result of this potentially damaging legislation from the UK Government.

“The sector are rightly concerned that the introduction of VAT liability for static caravans may lead to the stagnation of the market and would agree that the substantial difference between the VAT rate for tourist businesses place the tourism sector in the southwest of Scotland at a competitive disadvantage. It would be disappointing to see legislation introduced that could damage potential for growth in the area.

MSP Alex Fergusson has written to George Osbourne to highlight concerns raised by constituents over the plans, but has stopped short of giving the cmapaign his full backing.

He said: “It does seem a bit strange that holiday caravans, which can be towed by a family car, are subject to VAT, but that static holiday caravans are not. It is however important to note that it is not proposed to change the law governing residential caravans. Caravans which meet requirements for continuous all year round occupancy will continue to be zero rated. Furthermore, any eventual changes will not take place immediately. The UK Government is seeking people’s views on its plans to address various long-standing anomalies in the VAT system, including this one, and I am pleased to note that the Government has extended the consultation period. “Obviously, this is a proposal that is reserved to Westminster, but I have already written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to highlight the understandable concerns that have been raised with me by my constituents.”

The petition is being distributed among holiday parks, local shops and visitor attractions across the region and can also be signed online at www.russellbrownmp.com/NoTourismTax.