Edinburgh's festivals gets 'stay of execution' as curbs on short-term lets are delayed

Edinburgh’s festivals have been given a “stay of execution” over controversial curbs on the short-term letting of properties.

The Scottish Government has agreed to push back a deadline for home owners to apply for a licence until after the end of September next year after fears were raised about the new rules having a crippling impact on the city’s major cultural events.

The delay means people who have rented out second homes, their own flats or spare rooms for the festivals will still be able to do so in 2023.

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City council leaders announced a new short-term letting term for the city in September, which included a presumption against the letting out of homes within tenements buildings.

The 75th anniversary edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was staged in August. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The new rules included a need for fire, gas, electric and water safety checks, and maximum occupancy levels to be agreed. The council agreed to allow temporary exemptions to be granted to allow people to rent out entire properties or spare rooms during the summer and winter festivals.

However, the festivals have been lobbying for a rethink, claiming the red tape involved in the new licensing regime risked the loss of thousands rooms for performers and festival workers.

Earlier this week Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy branded the roll-out of new legislation in the city “draconian” and warned Edinburgh risked losing its “culture capital” status unless there was more support for the arts in Scotland.

Festivals Edinburgh, which represents all of the city’s major events, has protested that it was “overly onerous” to expect people applying for a temporary licence to face the same conditions and demands as people renting out properties on a commercial basis throughout the year.

Keylocks are a familiar sight across Edinburgh, which critics say has been blighted by the number of short-term let properties.

Housing secretary Shona Robison said: “This is a one-off six month extension, which recognises the wider economic circumstances of the cost-of-living crisis that is placing pressure on existing short-term let hosts and businesses without significantly delaying our primary aim of ensuring consistent safety standards and addressing issues faced by residents and communities.”

Ms McCarthy said: “My understanding is that next year’s festivals will be able to happen unimpeded and the six-week exemptions will be much lighter-touch in future.

“The history of home-sharing during the festivals goes right back to their earliest days. The idea that that was almost going to become impossible would have been the final nail in the coffin. This really is a stay of execution.

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“No-one could have predicted what the unintended consequences of the new legislation would be. But our voices have been heard. This gives us more time to look at the impacts of the new legislation and what other roads we could go down.”

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland's Self Caterers, which has also been lobbying the Government for a rethink over the new legislation, said: “We are pleased our hard work, as well as the efforts from our friends across the Scottish tourism industry, has resulted in this development.

“We have been pressing hard for a pause to the implementation of the scheme due to the cost-of-living crisis, so it’s good to know our voices are being heard. We do see this as progress and will continue to push forward on behalf of our members. However, we know there’s lots of work still to do to.”

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