PROPOSALS to implement a ‘tourist tax’ in Argyll and Bute to help establish the region’s traditional music scene have been backed by a leading Helensburgh musician and composer.

Fiddler Eilidh Steel, who graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has performed at events and festivals throughout the world, has endorsed the recommendations put forward in a recent study by experts at Newcastle University.

The report spells out how the unique musical heritage of the area could be exploited to create sustained economic growth, with one suggestion being to introduce a two per cent levy on room costs for overnight visitors.

It is claimed this could then be used to provide incentives for hoteliers and tour operators to improve what they offer in the area, boosting businesses and small and medium sized enterprises in the creative industries and supporting the potential development of new festivals, tours, trails and partnerships between musicians and communities.

Eilidh said: “My initial thoughts on the tourist tax are that it’s a great idea.

“I think two per cent is a manageable amount for tourists staying in the area and hopefully it could be managed efficiently so it’s not difficult for hotel or guest house owners.

“We could definitely do with more funding in traditional music and arts in the area.

“As well as supporting the freelance musicians and current organisations, I think this could create jobs in the administrative side of running events and organisations, as well as bring more people to the area to attend events.

“Argyll and Bute has a vast musical history and today there are so many great traditional musicians from the area who work as performers, composers and tutors.

“I think we should be really proud of our culture.”

Eilidh is due to attend a meeting at Dunoon Burgh Hall today (Thursday), where the report’s findings will be discussed.

And Dr Simon McKerrell, senior lecturer in music at Newcastle University and co-author of the research, shared Eilidh’s sentiments over the proposals.

Dr McKerrell said: “Argyll and Bute has this wonderful musical heritage which goes back centuries and there is a lot of potential to grow its music scene.

“This wouldn’t just attract tourists to this beautiful part of the world, it would also bring in new people to live and work in the area, which is also important as the population in the area is declining.

“The things which make Argyll and Bute a key visitor attraction are also the things which make it a challenging area for small enterprises to set up, such as travel.”

Dr McKerrell added: “Our recommendations would mean that some of the challenges the area faces could be addressed quite easily through collectivising resources and reducing overheads for festival insurance, ticketing, policing, fencing, facilities, and so on, which in most cases would be cost neutral for the council, and with the potential to really boost the economy.”