PLANS for a new tax on cruise ships visiting Inverclyde have been welcomed by the district's MSP.

The proposal to introduce a tourist levy, outlined by Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater at the party's recent conference, has already been backed by Inverclyde Council's Labour leader Stephen McCabe, who said that it would raise funds that could be used to 'enhance' the area's tourism offer.

And SNP man Stuart McMillan also believes the scheme has the potential to boost the local economy, with nearly 100 vessels checking in at Greenock this year alone.

Mr McMillan said: “I believe it can help bring in additional finance to help boost our tourism offering to entice more cruise ship passengers to stay in Inverclyde, but also to tackle the impact on the local environment.

“The cruise ship sector makes a significant contribution to our economy, with passengers and crew members spending money in local businesses, and crucially, it enables more people to visit Scotland.

“The £20m investment in a new cruise terminal in Greenock is providing a warmer welcome to visitors, and I would hope the cruising industry would acknowledge and welcome that public monies have been spent to improve port facilities to benefit them and their passengers.

READ MORE: Proposed 'cruise ship tax' will 'enhance Inverclyde's tourism offer' - council leader

“However, if the purpose of this levy is tied to industry emissions rather than passenger numbers, I would also hope it could be extended to include non-cruise vessels such as large cargo ships.

“This would strengthen the economic case for such a tax and would encourage more companies to consider the impact they have on our marine environment and to reduce their emissions."

Scottish Greens transport and environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell claimed the move will make 'a massive difference in supporting communities'. 

He said: “For all the benefits tourism brings, pressure on infrastructure, services and how lives of locals in port areas are impacted need properly targeted help and this helps."

Inverclyde MSP Mr McMillan added: “People may think such a levy could put off cruise ships from docking in Inverclyde, but I am not convinced.

“I have met with cruise ship companies and industry associations since the pandemic, and they are all saying that cruising is growing in popularity. The industry is bouncing back from Covid-19.

“I doubt a small fee per passenger to be reinvested in providing more tourism facilities – but also to combat the damage their pollution causes, as one ship can produce the same amount of carbon emissions as 12,000 cars – would lead to them bypassing Scotland.

“If the levy is tied to the level of emissions, it should mean that operators pay less if they take steps to improve sustainability credentials, which I would welcome.

“Either way, a levy which provides Inverclyde with additional monies for tourism and or environmental measures, I would support.”