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Industry Expert Highlights Ministerial Misinformation on STL Licensing

The head of a UK-wide trade body has criticised the Minister responsible for short-term let licensing for spreading misinformation about the approaches of the Scottish and Welsh Government regarding regulation.

The Minister for Housing Paul McLennan MSP claimed the Welsh Government were introducing a “similar scheme” to the Scottish Government. However, Alistair Handyside MBE, Chair of the Professional Association of Self-Caterers (PASC), has written to Paul McLennan, to highlight that the two schemes could not be more different.

PASC, which supports the self-catering, short-term let and holiday let sector in England and Wales, has engaged with the Welsh Government on the issue of short-term let licensing.

Mr Handyside said any claim the Welsh Government were following the Scottish model would be “disingenuous and factually inaccurate” and that any comparison “should now cease so there is a better-informed debate about the regulatory framework in Scotland.”

The Minister’s assertion was repeated in a recent parliamentary debate by SNP backbenchers Kevin Stewart MSP, a former Housing Minister, as well as Stuart McMillan MSP. Scottish Green MSP Ariane Burgess MSP, Convener of the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, has also linked the two schemes.

The Scottish Government’s licensing plans have been widely criticised for being costly and onerous for small businesses like self-caterers and B&B owners, with councils charging hefty non-refundable fees. Edinburgh Council’s licensing policy was successfully challenged at the Court of Session, while other legal action against local authorities is imminent.

PASC points out the Welsh Government intends to introduce “a system that is low cost, easy to navigate and instantaneous”, which would create an online application system based on attestation and a regime operated by a resourced central body as opposed to burdening councils. A fees framework would apply across all Wales, thereby avoiding the different and complex fee structures seen in Scotland.

With the UK Government also looking at a lighter touch system through registration, Mr Handyside warned Scotland was “becoming an outlier within the UK” and risked being “an international example of bad practice” for regulation.

PASC calls on the Minister to retract his comments and to undertake a review on licensing unless the Scottish Government were “content to see small and micro sized businesses in Scotland lose out to their counterparts elsewhere – or even close their doors to visitors for good.”

Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, commented:

“We welcome this timely and informed intervention as an evidence-based approach to regulation is imperative given the sheer number of businesses it will affect.

 The similarities between the Scottish Government’s policy and the proposed Welsh scheme ends at the word ‘licensing’. Policymakers should stop erroneously claiming they are linked as they couldn’t be more different.

 The Scottish Government’s plans will damage Scotland’s vital tourism industry, cost jobs and push up the cost for ordinary families visiting our country, while doing nothing to address housing challenges.

 The ASSC would gladly support the fair, low cost and responsible system from the Welsh Government in place of what we have in Scotland which is unworkable at best and unlawful at worst.”


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