Agritourism will suffer under rules for urban hotspots

The Scottish government’s proposed ‘one size fits all’ approach to licensing short-term accommodation could have a devastating impact on Scotland’s rural communities as they struggle to recover from the economic body-blow of Covid, it has been claimed.

Simon Ovenden, SLE
Simon Ovenden, SLE

The rural land and business organisation, Scottish Land and Estates SLE said proposals being put forward for new legislation failed to reflect the needs of rural communities and could lead to mass closures of short-term accommodation.

It said that glamping sites, B&Bs and holiday cottages - key part of the nation’s infant Agritourism sector – would all fall under the same legislation which had been drawn up to address problems in urban hot spot.

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The organisation said yesterday that the proposals failed to take into account the important role short-term lets played across rural Scotland by providing housing for communities and workers, as well as bringing in vital tourism.

The organisation policy adviser, Simon Ovenden, stated that licensing fees and administration costs had been significantly underestimated - with some licenses potentially costing thousands of pounds.

Claiming that the consultation potentially breached of Scottish Government’s own best practice guidelines, SLE also warned that the in terms of transparency, accountability, proportionality, and consistency

Business and regulatory impact assessment was deeply flawed – while a mass resignation of stakeholders from the related industry working group showed it was not widely supported by affected businesses.

Stating that ensuring health and safety of accommodation was paramount he said that the ‘one size fits all’ approach failed to reflect the needs of rural communities and that the current proposals could lead to mass closures of short-term accommodation, a massive impact on rural Scotland.

“In our view, the Scottish Government needs to have a serious reassessment about these proposals.”

Ovenden said a simple registration scheme akin to proposals put forward by the Association of Scotland Self Caterers would be more appropriate:

“This would allow proper enforcement of existing health and safety standards and appropriate planning policy which prioritises housing development for residential use without excessive bureaucracy and spiralling costs.

A number of rural businesses, he pointed out, hired in seasonal and short-term workers for jobs which often only lasted a short number of weeks or months, adding that accommodation was key to filling these roles, but if these new laws are to be introduced then that could be put at serious risk.

“These proposals come at an awful time for many rural businesses. The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated Scotland’s tourism industry, and at a time when the Scottish Government should be supporting this vital sector, these proposals could mean the end for many rural businesses.

“These regulations will not only impact short-term let providers but will also affect other local businesses with many relying on local tourists visiting their area of rural Scotland.”

Ovenden stressed that the wider-scale impact of such changes should be understood and appreciated before any new regulations were brought into force, adding that SLE did not feel adequate time had been set aside to do this effectively.

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