Visitors to Edinburgh this summer are being made aware of the new so-called 'tartan tax', an effort to generate additional income to support charities across Scotland. It has been introduced by the government following Scotland's failure to gain full control of its finances after the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.
Sales of any product bearing a traditional tartan pattern will be subject to an additional 1% levy at the point of sale. This includes all traditional style kilts, as well as novelty kilt products, tartan skirts, jacket and any gift items which bear a tartan design, including coasters, tea towels, and book marks. As a concession to painters and decorators, tins of tartan paint are exempt.
Cash raised from this additional tax will help support a variety of Scottish charities, engaged in work which supports traditional Scots heritage and culture. Among the first organisations to receive additional funding will be Bag Yin Music School, a Glasgow-based school teaching bagpipes to people with only one arm, a group previously unable to join in bands of these traditional Scottish musical instruments.
Other charitable bodies include those with environmental concerns, including efforts to construct a fence to mark the boundary between the Highlands and the Lowlands, helping to preserve peat fields from erosion, and WindUpScotland, seeking to put wind turbines on private houses across the country, to meet the SNP's pledge to have over 75% of Scotland's energy drawn from renewable sources by 2020.
Retailers opposed to the tartan tax have been advised that filling in the lines between the bands of colour in products branded with an iconic tartan pattern will render those products exempt from the new levy. Coloured pens will be distributed to all gift shops across Scotland for staff to take the necessary steps to avoid paying the additional tax. A strict 'colouring between the lines' policy is advised.
This 'tartan tax' is the latest controversial money-raising levy to be introduced since shops began charging for plastic bags in 2014. A suggestion to exempt purchases from paying the 'tartan tax' if paid in cash with Scottish banknotes was not given approval.
Opponents have suggested the tax will be more damaging to this emblem of Scottish identity than the law which prohibited the wearing of tartan in 1746, when men found guilty of wearing any form of Highland dress faced six months in prison for the offence.
Visitors worried about the additional cost to their trip to Scotland are advised to budget accordingly, or to avoid purchasing gift products with tartan designs.
The new levy comes into effect today, 1 April, with shops granted a grace period to introduce the tax before the new financial year starts next week.
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Edinburgh Expert is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh with 18 years of experience living and working in the city.