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In Response to Community Concerns

The following has been sent to a concerned resident, who emailed the First Minister, and opposition leaders:

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) shares your concerns about the impact of tourism in general on local communities, and the impact specifically of holiday lets. It is for this reason that in 2017, we called for mandatory registration with health and safety, plus licensing in areas where there is a demonstrable link between self-catering properties (or short-term lets) and loss of housing stock. This would have provided local authorities with real time empirical data to understand the scale of the activity, whilst also ensuring that all accommodation providers adhere to existing health and safety regulations. This suggestion was ignored.

Unfortunately, these proposals are founded on little more than anecdote, often provided by localised pressure groups rather than through objective surveying, and empirical data. The 2019 independent research was poor to say the least, based on scraped data from Airbnb and not reflecting the reality of the professional self-catering sector which represents £867million direct visitor spend to the Scottish economy and supports almost 24,000 full time jobs.

Local planning authorities already have the ability to introduce planning conditions to protect properties for local residents. Section 75 conditions are just one example. Local authorities also have the ability to introduce Planning Control Zones following legislation introduced as part of the Planning Act 2019 in February 2021. They have not chosen to use these powers.

Since 2017, we have pro-actively and constructively offered empirical data and policy recommendations to deliver proportionate and targeted solutions to protect communities whilst protecting the professional self-catering sector, which is the backbone to Scottish tourism the length and breadth of the country. As a compromise, rather than proposing to completely replace the current draft Licensing Order, the ASSC has proposed to amend Article 3(1) to provide that an activity is exempt from the licence requirement if it is in respect of “registered accommodation” and the “registration conditions” (essentially the existing mandatory licensing conditions) are being complied with. This could be delivered by the Development of Tourism Act 1969 with no additional legislation required, in other words immediately. The ASSC has helped to develop a digital solution that could be offered to the Scottish Government with no charge to administer the scheme. This would protect professional businesses whilst meeting the policy objectives.

We have real and significant concerns that legitimate and already regulated H&S business owners will suffer significant financial loss if these proposals are made law and it will materially damage the tourism industry in Scotland. We also have concerns that the legislation is legally precarious.

It is deeply regrettable that we have found that engagement with the Working Group has been nothing more than window dressing. We have seen no evidence whatsoever that the Scottish Government is listening to concerns from those who actually understand the industry, or properly considering alternative proposals to deliver its policy objectives in a way that will not harm the tourism industry, onward supply chains and our guests.

It is the responsibility of our elected policy makers to deliver ‘good laws’. This is not a ‘good law’.

I do hope that you can appreciate that we fully support a sustainable tourism industry in Scotland and that we have offered solutions to the various concerns. It is time that this legislation is reconsidered in light of honesty, transparency and accountability in order to get the balance right between the needs of communities and our vital tourism industry.

Should you be interested in why industry bodies withdrew from the Working Group, please see this very short clip: https://youtu.be/rl0Oub8vS1w.

We have been assured that the legislation will be monitored and evaluated is disingenuous given the lack of baseline data. To suggest that we can amend this SSI later is akin to suggesting that we send HMY Britannia off to sea, knowing it has holes in the hull. We all know how RMS Titanic ended.

Many thanks indeed for raising the issue.

Fiona Campbell
Chief Executive
Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers

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