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Letter from B&B Association

David Weston, Chair of the B&B Association has written to Kate Forbes MSP today (22nd January).

Ms Forbes,

In your email yesterday to B&B owners ** and ** of ** B&B, your words might be read as implying that we had agreed with the Scottish Government’s approach as regards the licensing of “short-term lets”.  (Your colleague Kevin Stewart made a similar statement in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday in a reply to Oliver Mundell.)

Nothing could be further from the truth, so I’m sure you will appreciate my filling in the facts to avoid anyone being misled.

As you told your constituents ** and **, we did give written responses to Scottish Government consultations in July 2019 and October 2020 (the latter a very limited consultation, as a licensing scheme had by then been decided upon).  However you omitted the significant fact that both times, we made very clear that a licensing scheme would be the WRONG way to go, and explained why.   And in October, we specifically warned of the danger of bringing in B&Bs into the definition of “short-term lets”. Again we were ignored.

Yes we have long been in favour of levelling the playing-field between B&Bs and properties on “platforms” such as Airbnb – and we have made very clear to the Scottish Government (since 2017 when we gave evidence to your Expet Panel on the “Collaborative Economy”) that this “playing field” distortion was a matter of ENFORCEMENT.  To put it simply, traditional B&Bs are subject to the enforcement by regulators of health & safety rules, and properties on platforms like Airbnb are in practice not.  The way to bring the same level of enforcement to both is to bring in a no or low cost accommodation registration scheme, not an onerous, costly, inflexible and unwieldy licensing scheme.

So the current damaging and misconveived proposals are the result of your Government ignoring all that we said, and doing the opposite.  Which of course, is perfectly within your right to do.  But in which case, please in future make it clear that we have advised against your present course at every opportunity – and you could then explain why you feel the Scottish B&B Association is wrong and our views should be ignored.

In any case, seeking written submissions from voluntary trade associations is not sufficient as a consultation excercise before changes of this scope and scale – if your Government had intended every owner of a house (ie UCO 9) in Scotland who offered even one room as B&B to be subject to a licensing regime, it would have been incumbent on you to carry out a near population-level consultation and communications excercise.

(Whether the consultation excercise was legally watertight is, I understand, a question worth asking. Unlike Acts of the UK parliament which (generally since leaving the EU) cannot be challenged in the courts, Scottish Acts can be challenged in the Scottish Courts if they are outwith the scope of the legal powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament. But there are much wider grounds for challenging subordinate legislation (ie legislation like this Order made not by Parliament but by Ministers in exercise of powers given to them under an Act of either Parliament). These include procedural impropriety etc. which may be wide enough to include failure to properly consult key sectors affected, particularly in the context of published “best practice”. This is something we are looking into at present.)

In addition of course, if the Scottish Government had intended the scope to be that wide, a serious economic impact assessment of appropriate scope would have been needed – and again, that wasn’t done.

Many of your colleagues are surprised that B&Bs are now included within the definition of “short term lets”.  None of them to my knowledge has said that the problems giving rise to this legislation were caused by established traditional B&Bs across Scotland.  B&Bs are NOT part of the problem your SSI on Short Term Lets purports to solve – yet they will (if it is enacted as proposed) be amongst the most significant and numerous casualties.  B&Bs will suffer disproportionate new burdens and costs which are entirely unnecessary, unless this badly drafted and wrongly targeted legislation can be set aside and reviewed.

The fact that small B&Bs are covered by your draft legislation is only because our warnings on the definition of “short term lets” were ignored.

So I would be grateful if in future correspondence on this matter, if and when you or your colleagues choose to mention the Scottish B&B Association having been consulted, you make clear that we were strongly opposed to the present legislation, and explain why you have nevertheless decided to ignore our views and warnings.


David Weston


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