Short term lets licensing plan to go ahead
Short term lets in Scotland, such as those operated through Airbnb, will need to be licensed after controversial measures to clamp down on the sector were approved in parliament.
MSPs approved the move as a response to complaints from local communities about the impact of tourists and other short-stay visitors on their neighbourhoods.
Housing Secretary Shona Robison said the new regulations “will allow local authorities and communities to take action to manage issues more effectively, without unduly curtailing the many benefits of short-term lets to hosts, visitors and the economy”.
There was disappointment from trade groups representing the self-catering sector and rural businesses who felt the changes would be damaging for their members.
Tory housing spokesperson Miles Briggs launched a late attempt to revive calls for a registration scheme as a “workable solution”.
But Ms Robison said: “We do not believe that registration offers the same protection as licensing does to guests, neighbours and local communities.”
Local authorities will be required to establish a short-term lets licensing scheme by 1 October and existing hosts and operators will have until 1 April 2023, to apply for a licence.
Ms Robison said: “We have already introduced legislation allowing councils to establish short-term let control areas and manage numbers of short-term lets.
“This is the next step to delivering a licensing scheme that will ensure short-term lets are safe and that allowing them to continue to make a positive impact on Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies while meeting the needs of local communities.”
The legislation covers the whole of Scotland and offers flexibility to local authorities in how it is implemented based on local needs and concerns.
Those in the self-catering sector were disappointed with the outcome. Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), said the group had always sought a collaborative approach to short-term let regulation.
“While disappointed that we were not able to persuade SNP and Scottish Green MSPs, we are very grateful for the support of Scottish Conservative, Scottish Labour and Scottish Lib Dem MSPs who voted against short-term let licensing to protect our sector, as well as the shrewd and informed interventions from former Scottish Government cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing MSP who backed Scottish tourism by speaking out against these arbitrary, irrational, and draconian regulations.”
She added: “The ASSC maintain(s) that the licensing order remains unfit for purpose, lacks an evidence base and was more often than not based on groundless fears, anecdote and hearsay.
“The self-catering sector has been used as a convenient scapegoat for wider policy failures by government, especially on housing.
“In contrast, our proposal for a mandatory registration scheme with health and safety provisions had cross-industry and cross-party support and would have provided a robust and legally effective regulatory regime.
“The Scottish Government have confirmed there will be a review of licensing in summer 2023 in so-called ‘hotspot areas’, and while the precise details of this remain unclear, we will be putting forward our views and insight to help protect self-catering and mitigate the worst effects of this damaging legislation.”
Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners and rural businesses, said the licensing order had been shaped with mainly urban businesses in mind and failed to take into account the important role short-term lets play across rural Scotland by providing housing for communities and workers, as well as bringing in vital tourism.
Policy adviser, Simon Ovenden, said: “We’re extremely disappointed that these proposals have been passed by the Scottish Parliament, albeit with some welcome opposition that recognised the damage that this legislation will have on rural businesses.
“While we understand the need for action in some localised situations, we have constantly warned of the dangers of a one size fits all approach.
“This urban-focused licensing order being imposed on rural Scotland, with evidence suggesting that the excessive bureaucracy and spiralling costs could now lead to many businesses closing with a knock-on impact to the local communities they serve.
“This is particularly disappointing given the significant difficulty rural businesses have faced during the last two years.”