'Not fit for purpose' short-term let licensing scheme approved by Holyrood committee

Legislation for a licensing regime to tackle the growth of short-term lets have been recommended for approval by a Holyrood committee.Legislation for a licensing regime to tackle the growth of short-term lets have been recommended for approval by a Holyrood committee.
Legislation for a licensing regime to tackle the growth of short-term lets have been recommended for approval by a Holyrood committee.
The Scottish Government have been accused of putting forward legislation to tackle the growth and impact of short-term lets that was “not fit for purpose”.

Holyrood’s local government and communities committee narrowly voted to recommend approval to plans from housing minister Kevin Stewart for a licensing regime and control zones for short-term lets.

However, the quality of the legislation was criticised by committee members, with one of the leading campaigners on the issue, independent MSP Andy Wightman, voting against both proposals.

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Mr Stewart also responded to concerns raised by the B&B industry – which had initially been excluded from the proposals in a consultation in 2019 – that the plans would impact them unnecessarily.

However, the minister claimed the potential for short-term let operators to offer “breakfast boxes” and claim they were operating as a B&B was a loophole that needed to be closed.

In recommending the legislation for approval, the proposals will now go to the main chamber in Holyrood for final say.

Concerns were raised by MSPs about the suggestion from Mr Stewart the plans would be revisited and reviewed after the May election to examine potential unintended consequences.

In debate, Mr Wightman said he would rather “we got it right at first go” and that it was “fundamentally wrong for ministers to give consent” to council plans to implement control zones.

The former Green MSP said he was “distressed” at the inclusion of B&Bs and called on the government to withdraw the plans.

Mr Wightman said: “But I believe it is bad governance, bad law to be introducing quite complex policy legislation and saying we are willing after the next election to reflect on them and perhaps change them.

"I think we should get it right first time.”

The proposals were also criticised by the Scottish Conservatives, with MSP Alexander Stewart labelling them "not fit for purpose”.

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He said: “I am yet to be convinced that this will not be detrimental to certain sectors of the industry, especially the traditional bed and breakfast.

"The order does not seem to be fit for purpose and to have comments made that we may have to amend it in the next Parliament, we’re dealing with it in this Parliament, we should be ensuring that we get it right.

"If we’re not getting it right, it should be withdrawn because law should not be put through that has a knock-on effect for many individuals and organisations the length and breadth of this country who did not see and did not believe that were going to have to be curtailed within this whole process.”

Scottish Labour MSP Sarah Boyack also expressed her concerns and, despite casting the deciding vote in favour of the plans, warned ministers there was “much work to be done” ahead of the legislation being put before Parliament.

Mr Stewart rejected suggestions the government had “rushed in” to bring legislation and said he believed the right balance between business needs and community needs had been met.

He said: “There are obviously very polarised views on this. There are many in the industry who do not want to see change.

"There are many communities who, quite frankly, have had enough and want to hear action.

"What we have put forward is a balance in all of this.”

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