Short-term lets Scotland: Why the Scottish Government must not lose nerve on short-term lets regulation

Ministers are under fire for the planned regulation of short-term lets in Scotland

In The Scotsman today, minister Neil Gray states there are “no plans” for a further extension to the deadline for the Scottish Government’s short-term let licensing scheme.

This is unpopular with the tourism sector and, unsurprisingly, those who operate Airbnb and Airbnb-like properties across the country. But while “no plans” to do something is a classic political non-denial denial, and despite a desire to please the business community more than his predecessor, Humza Yousaf and his Cabinet must hold their nerve.

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If poverty is the most pernicious crisis facing the country right now, then the housing crisis in our cities and in our rural areas follows in second.

Tenement flats along Comely Bank in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireTenement flats along Comely Bank in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Tenement flats along Comely Bank in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

It is, for those in urban settings, the definitive crisis of our time, with sky-high rents, runaway house prices, and a desperate lack of social, affordable and new housebuilding nationwide.

Short-term lets, where whole flats and houses are set aside for tourists to stay in, often year-round, add further to this pressure and can make the lives of neighbours a misery. It is not uncommon in Edinburgh to meet those who have lived next to one, woken in the early hours by visitors unable to gain access or by the familiar rumble of suitcases on cobbles.

In more rural parts of Scotland, locals are pushed out in favour of significantly higher profits than a measly long-term let would return, worsening the very real housing crisis and driving younger people to cities.

Regulating short-term lets is not the silver bullet to the housing crisis. It is far too complex a beast for that to be the case, but regulation is one of several pernicious and damaging factors that exacerbate it.

However, the rise of short-term lets is one that has occurred without a shred of oversight and, as the Fringe in Edinburgh’s case and tourism in places like Skye’s case grew exponentially, so did the opportunities available.

This debate is fundamentally about whether the industry requires ‘some’ regulation, rather than none.

The public believe the sector should be regulated more closely, those who have benefited from years of inaction by councils and central government want their, up to now perfectly legitimate, gravy train to continue.

Ministers, despite increasingly loud noises and opposition, should hold their nerve and deliver it.



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