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21/04/2020

First Minister’s Media Briefing

In her media briefing today, the First Minister said: “that holiday accommodation businesses can manage online and telephone services for bookings.

“Not for this period but related to future dates. However, let me be clear it is not yet possible to say when such establishments will be able to re-open.”

“Holiday accommodation services may take bookings online, by phone or by post, for future dates when they are no longer closed.”

 Whilst we welcome this nod towards some kind of end to the lockdown, I am afraid that it doesn’t really actually give us any further clarity at all.

Our professional, hard-working members shut their doors to guests well before the Scottish Government asked us to, and we remain closed to the public for holidays for the foreseeable future. As a responsible industry, we were sensitive to bringing visitors in to anxious communities.

Our sector is perfectly placed to bounce back after movement restrictions are lifted. And after months of lockdown, people will want a change of scenery. We can open our doors in a second. We don’t need to restock or re-staff. We can offer visitors safe, clean, quality accommodation and wide-open spaces. We can responsibly help to kick-start the vital rural tourism economy on the other side of this crisis. Our visitors, more than any other sector, keep local economies going, bringing in much needed revenue to rural areas via restaurants, visitor attractions and activities.

But only if we are given the desperately needed support we need to stay afloat as micro-businesses whose income has entirely dried up, but outgoings have stayed the same.

  • Self-caterers from across Scotland are experiencing huge difficulties in accessing business support grants from the Scottish Government that are being administered by local authorities.
  • Just 15 respondents (or approximately 4% of the total) have had their application for a business support approved by a local authority.
  • Self-caterers have reported confusion regarding the eligibility criteria from the Scottish Government, its interpretation by many local authorities, as well as the cumbersome and bureaucratic nature of the application process itself. Examples of this confusion include the inability to evidence 2019/20 incomes amongst many more.
  • Respondents have highlighted that some local authorities are not processing applications from self-catering accommodation until further guidance has been provided from the Scottish Government.
  • The overwhelming majority of self-caterer respondents have no knowledge of the appeal process – however, most have had no result from their application so have no grounds to appeal.
  • Due to difficulties with accessing support, a large majority of respondents are deeply pessimistic about the future of their business over the next 6-12 months.

In terms of a lockdown exit strategy, there are simply too many unknowns just now. Our members will be guided by the government on this, just as they responsibly closed their businesses when instructed to do so back in March.

However, like many others in the tourism sector, who are being hit hard by the impact of COVID-19, we need economic support now to protect jobs, people’s mental health and livelihoods.

Fiona Campbell

Chief Executive

Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers

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