Short-term lets in Scotland: How the Scottish government has sought to strike a balance between tourism and tackling the problems – Shona Robison MSP

There is no doubt that the increase in short-term lets across the country means there is now a flexible and convenient form of accommodation for tourists and workers, which in turn boosts our wider economy.

Short-terms lets boost tourism but have led to a number of issues, including noise complaints and increased house price pressure
Short-terms lets boost tourism but have led to a number of issues, including noise complaints and increased house price pressure

However, we also know that in areas, particularly tourist hot spots, high numbers of lets can cause problems for neighbours and communities.

This includes noise and anti-social behaviour problems from nearby properties and worries over the impact on local housing supply, with local people experiencing difficulties finding homes to live in and get to work or education. Constituents were regularly asking MSPs what action the government could take to address their concerns.

This is a nationwide issue that doesn’t just impact on urban Edinburgh or rural islands. We have heard from residents from Ayr to Applecross, the Trossachs to North Berwick, and Skye to St Andrews.

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We heard the story of a guest struggling to reach their host when there was a gas leak in the property. One property in West Linton was used as a large party house, causing significant disturbance to the local community. One flat was even used as a brothel.

Alongside three public consultations and independent research, this all formed part of the evidence we used to find a way to balance the needs of residents with the benefits of short-term lets.

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I believe we have that balance right with the actions we have taken. We have already introduced legislation allowing councils to manage numbers of short-term lets by establishing control areas. Last week Parliament also approved a new licensing scheme.

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This is a measure which will keep guests safe by ensuring all hosts are suitable and properties meet a defined set of safety standards. The scheme also gives local authorities the flexibility to add further conditions to address issues in their particular areas, if required.

I appreciate the input we’ve received from tourism bodies, local government, community organisations and others as we’ve developed these plans. We have listened to the short-term lets sector and have made considerable changes thanks to their valuable feedback.

I can understand why some operators and hosts may be uncertain about the licensing scheme. But we do not expect obtaining a licence to be onerous, and estimate that average indicative fees will be between £214 and £436 to cover a three-year licence – working out at £6 to £12 a month.

What’s more, many hosts will already be adhering to the standards as a matter of best practice or compliance with existing law. And hosts and operators have until July 2024, to ensure all short-term let properties have a licence.

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This legislation is a significant milestone on our path to bringing in an effective system for regulating short-term lets. It will give visitors to our beautiful country, or those travelling within Scotland, the confidence that, no matter where they choose to stay, their short-term let is safe and operated by a suitable host.

And it will allow hosts to continue playing such a vital role in our tourism industry, giving people from around the world a warm Scottish welcome.

Shona Robison is Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government and MSP for Dundee City East

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