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Chief Executive’s Report

2017 has been a year of frenetic activity and pro-active engagement on a number of key issues, which have and will have a dramatic effect on our sector going forwards. It has been an exceptionally challenging year and we continue to face significant threats going into 2018.

These are just some of the things that have been keeping us entertained over the last year….

Collaborative Economy

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government established the Expert Panel on the Collaborative Economy, which has met throughout 2017.

They are looking a the challenges and opportunities that the collaborative economy bring to the traditional accommodation sector.

The Chair of the Expert Panel will present recommendations next month and Scottish Government Ministers will respond in the first quarter of 2018.

These will include possible ways to regulate the collaborative economy, which will undeniably have a knock on effect to the traditional sector.

The ASSC fed into the initial Scoping Exercise in March 2017 and have presented evidence to the Panel over the past few months, including a Policy Recommendation Paper.

You can access the various papers that we have submitted on our Reports and Studies page.

The ASSC and Short-Term Accommodation Association have worked together to align a Code of Conduct, as requested by the Expert Panel.

Negative Press

The Scottish self-catering and holiday let sector has been the target of an increasing level of negative media coverage over the past year. Much of this is related to the campaign conducted by Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman.

Some of his claims include:

  • Short-term lets contravene residents’ human rights;
  • The growth of short-term lets in Edinburgh are impacting housing stock;
  • Local communities are being displaced by Airbnb flats; and
  • Students are subject to anti-social behaviour from holidaymakers.

Wightman’s regulatory solution is to reform planning laws to prevent short-term letting in certain areas. A Members’ Business Debate is happening tomorrow at the Scottish Parliament on his ‘Homes First’ campaign.

In response, the ASSC have:

  • Issued statements and written to the press challenging the arguments made by Wightman and others.
  • Provided briefing papers to MSPs setting out our case.
  • Met with MSPs to discuss the allegations.
  • Encouraged a letter writing campaign to Andy Wightman.
  • The ASSC will meet with Andy Wightman later in November.

Given that we live at a time in which wrong or inaccurate information is easier than ever to spread and truth is at a premium, we continue to try to address some of the inaccuracies surrounding our industry and set the record straight.


What we really need is Data.

The ASSC took part in a workshop run by the Open Data Institute, who were commissioned by the UK Government to assess the impact of short-term rentals, and how data might be used to regulate it.

The ODI study will report in March 2018, which will sadly be too late to inform the Scottish Government.

In all determinations, policymakers/regulators should make informed decisions using accurate and evidence-based data, as opposed to relying on perception, anecdote or flawed studies designed to meet the policy outcome.

The ASSC are considering commissioning a new study on some of the data that we require to help us going forward.

Code of Conduct

The ASSC have developed and updated their Code of Conduct to reflect the growth in the collaborative economy and increased use of online platforms by members.

This has been shared with Government and MSPs and is an attempt to show that our members are capable of self-regulation.

The Code is aimed at improving standards in industry and encouraging best practice.

Based upon our Core Principles quality, integrity, cleanliness, comfort, courtesy and efficiency, it is designed to offer reassurance to:

  • Guests
  • Operators
  • Local resident
  • Local authorities

Aside from these potential threats, there are some actual and existing ones that are already impacting on the sector.

Business Rates

Earlier this year, the ASSC expressed concern at the huge increases in business rates.

The self-catering sector was hit with a 68% across Scotland average increase of rateable values, the highest in the hospitality industry, and some members reported rises of up to 269%.

  • The ASSC worked collaboratively with other stakeholders – Scottish Tourism Alliance, the British Hospitality Association and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association – in response.
  • We welcomed the Scottish Government’s extension of transitional relief and the re-evaluation of business rates over a period of three years.

 Barclay Review

We also welcomed several of the recommendations made in the Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates.

Positives include:

  • A Business Growth Accelerator which will be a boost for the hospitality sector
  • –A three-yearly revaluation is a positive step forward
  • – And we welcome the increased level of transparency contained within the review

However, we do have concern around the proposed changes to the Small Business Bonus Scheme and potential for unfair burdens on smaller businesses.

Energy Performance Certificates

Individual holiday homes, which are rented out in their entirety, now require an EPC in Scotland, despite official advice until Jan 2017 that this was not the case.

Our concern is that any property being rented out must meet a minimum standard of E by 2018; and by 2020, your EPC rating will have to be D, or even C.

The ASSC have undertaken a members’ survey on this subject:

  • 63% had no idea that an EPC was required;
  • 82% had no idea that ratings have to be included on every advertisement by law; and
  • 70% did not have an EPC.

The ASSC are trying to have this new guidance withdrawn in line with other European countries, including England.

 Private Landlord Tenancy Agreement

The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 introduces the Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) which comes into force next month.

Holiday lets have been excluded from the terms of the new lease agreements and the 2016 Act will have no impact on the law regarding holiday lets as it currently stands.

However, an owner looking to accept holiday lets or a portion of lets over 31 days will now have to be a registered landlord and the guest will have to sign a tenancy agreement which includes the right not to leave.

With this in mind, winter lets are no longer an option and mixing business models becomes impossible.

 Planning Bill

The Scottish Government are undertaking their reform of the planning system in Scotland, following their recent Places, People and Planning consultation. The Bill is expected to be presented to Parliament next month. The ASSC await the results with some degree of trepidation…

On many levels, the laws of unintended consequences seem to be stacked against us.

The rising cost of doing Business

The Scottish Tourism Alliance conducted a study earlier this year into the cost of doing business. This highlighted the:

  • Rising cost of utilities
  • Economic and political uncertainty
  • Increases in business rates
  • Poor connectivity; and
  • Regulatory changes, especially in the self-catering sector.

However it appears that self-catering operators feel most confident about the future despite the challenges faced.

It’s not all doom and gloom!


  • Administratively, we are coming to the end of the first year as a Ltd Company.
  • It has been a successful year financially and we are in a positive position.
  • With the support of our partners for business and increased membership, we are able to achieve more and afford the support that we need to do so.


Thanks to the recruitment campaign late last year, followed by a sustained recruitment strategy throughout the year, we reached an all time high membership of 672 in September.

Economic Impact Study

The ASSC commissioned Frontline Consultants to carry out the Economic Impact of the Self-Catering Sector in Scotland, which was published in April 2017.

Key findings:

  • There are 16,949 self-catering holiday-let properties in Scotland
  • The self-catering sector represents 3.4m visitor nights per year
  • There is an annual £723.3m direct visitor spend and
  • Self-catering supports 10,725 direct FTE jobs.

The report provides evidence of the tremendous value of the self-catering sector to the Scottish tourism economy and has proved to be an essential political and media engagement tool.

If you haven’t done so already, you can download the full report from the website.

Paws for a Break Marketing Campaign

–The ASSC’s year-long Paws for a Break marketing campaign was a huge success.

– Activity was delivered against the overall aim: to increase traffic to the EmbraceScotland website and increase bookings for our members.

SuperControl statistics show that the EmbraceScotland website has delivered a 20% increase in bookings since the campaign.

Social media engagement has improved significantly, up by more than 100% since the start of the campaign.

Recognising the power and reach of social media, we have retained the services of a professional social media consultancy.

The project, supported by the VisitScotland Growth Fund, has demonstrated the value of investing in consumer marketing. 

In conclusion, it is a pivotal time for the ASSC as an association, and in terms of representing a sector under threat.

However, as an association we are stronger than ever, and making the right connections to ensure that we can support and future-proof self-catering in Scotland.

 Tourism is Future Proof

Whilst artificial intelligence and automation grows with ever increasing technological advancements, it will never beat experience. It will also offer people more time to travel and use that time to experience.

  • The potential market is almost infinite.
  • The staycation continues to rise, with a continuing trend towards self-catering accommodation.
  • The benefits of tourism to the Scottish economy are exponential.

Despite the challenges facing our sector, if you take heed of what you have heard today, and future-proof your own business as far as possible, the future of the sector is hugely positive.


Fiona Campbell

Chief Executive

Working with leading industry partners
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