Short-term rents legislation will hit self-catering trade

Plans to introduce ‘arbitrary, irrational and draconian’ short-term let licensing plans on farmhouse B&B and holiday cottage businesses will put the livelihoods of those involved in Scotland’s £867m self-catering industry in jeopardy, it has been claimed.

NFU Scotland head of policy team, Gemma Cooper
NFU Scotland head of policy team, Gemma Cooper

Those involved in the sector have reacted angrily to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee decision to approve plans for the much-criticised Short Term Lets licensing scheme.

Pointing out that the provision of holiday accommodation facilities had a hugely beneficial impact on local rural economies, NFU Scotland’s head of policy team, Gemma Cooper termed the plan “using a sledgehammer to crack a city-based nut”.

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She said that the introduction of such ‘an onerous scheme’ on small rural businesses should be resisted – and called for the industry views to be taken into account when MSPs discuss the issue at a plenary debate on the proposed legislation.

“NFUS has raised concerns directly with Scottish Government about proposals relating to short term lets,” said Cooper.

“We have serious worries about the impact of the proposals on our farmers and crofters who have diversified to offer self-catering and short term accommodation.”

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said that the approval had been given despite the strength of opposition highlighted in the recent survey of those involved in the industry and expressed during the consultation process.

“We maintain that the Scottish Government’s regulations were unfit for purpose when withdrawn in February 2021 and remain so in December 2021, largely as industry and expert insight has been dismissed. Make no mistake, they will damage the Scottish tourism industry – which is still in survival mode – and will burden local councils at a time they can least afford it,” warned Campbell.

She said the news also came at the worst possible time for self-caterers and B&B owners who were facing an uncertain future with the challenges associated with Covid-19.

“Policymakers need to take these circumstances into account and support small and micro businesses through this and minimise the burden.”

Support was also given for the views expressed at the Committee by former Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Fergus Ewing on the merits of opting for a mandatory registration scheme, which Campbell said could include a fit and proper person test.

“Mr Ewing also raised the valuable economic contribution made by the industry but that many operators will now fear their business being confiscated through the draconian powers made available to local councils and the risk of judicial review therein.”

She agreed with Ewing’s sentiments that the regulations were ‘arbitrary, irrational and draconian’, and the Scottish Government should think again.

“With the regulations now heading to a vote in plenary, we would therefore strongly encourage all MSPs to back small business and protect livelihoods in Scotland’s £867m self-catering industry by rejecting these ill-timed and onerous plans.”

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