Visitor bodies quit working group on short term lets
New rules around short term lets have been raised concerns
Several tourism organisations have resigned from the Scottish Government’s Working Group on short-term lets, claiming that it has failed to fulfil its remit and branding it “not fit for purpose”.
Representatives of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, Airbnb, the Scottish B&B Association, and the UK Short Term Accommodation Association have quit the group citing its inability to address concerns the industry has raised over proposed new measures.
Industry figures have also accused the Scottish Government of deliberately “shifting the goalposts” on its policy intentions and acting with disregard towards the sector, which says it has suffered immense hardship throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government withdrew its licensing proposals ahead of the election as they were widely recognised as not being fit for purpose, and they committed to respond to stakeholder concerns through the Working Group.
However, the tourism bodies have highlighted the lack of significant changes in the legislation impacting traditional self-catering and B&Bs, as well as home sharers, despite representatives of both sectors acting in good faith, as grounds for quitting the group. Additional provisions have been added to the legislation, with some guest houses now being caught up in the plans.
Further, they have accused the government, which is now on its third consultation on short-term lets in four years, of acting with “cavalier disregard and indifference” towards the sector’s concerns about the impending restrictive licensing scheme and of ignoring their proposals for a more workable, proportionate and cost-effective mandatory programme of registration.
Nearly half of self-catering operators are expected to leave the sector should the plans come into force, threatening to jeopardise the recovery of Scottish tourism from the pandemic.
All the organisations involved in the walk-out have been responsible, willing, and positive parties to the discussions, providing key industry insight and evidence-based analysis, but say they have been met with obtuse responses and a reluctance to engage, the latest of which represents the final straw for the industry.
Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers chief executive, Fiona Campbell, said: “Despite our best efforts, and those of our colleagues across Scottish tourism, this Working Group has been revealed as nothing but a sham and therefore we have decided to leave it.
“Throughout the entire process, while we have acted in good faith, this government has continually shifted the goalposts and acted with cavalier disregard and indifference towards our sincere concerns and innovative ideas.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and long-before that, the Scottish tourism industry has been an example for others to follow – it is therefore extremely disappointing that our government has not held itself to the same standards and failed to back small business at this crucial time.”
Chairman of the Bed & Breakfast Association, David Weston, said: “Leaving the Working Group is not a decision that my colleagues and I have taken lightly but there seems little point in remaining.
“We have been frustrated at every turn and it will be Scottish B&Bs that suffer if we continue to take part in what has become nothing but a charade.
“Our members expect us to act in their best interests, and in the interests of the broader tourism sector, and it has been made abundantly clear that neither the Working Group nor the Scottish Government are interested in that type of dialogue.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government considers regulation of short term lets to be vital in balancing the needs and concerns of residents and communities with wider economic and tourism interests.
“We have been clear since January 2020 that regulation of short-term lets would include a licensing scheme and the focus of the working group has always been on refining and implementing that plan.
“It is therefore surprising these organisations – who we invited to be part of the working group to express their views – have chosen to leave at this stage on the grounds we are progressing with licensing, rather than registration, which has been the case since January 2020.
“We are disappointed they have decided not to continue with their participation in the working group and thank them for the contribution to shaping the short-term lets legislation and guidance to this point.”