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New Poll Warns of Short-Term Let Licensing Nightmare for Scottish Government

With just one month to go before the deadline for applications to be submitted, a new snap survey from the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) shows even more small businesses are poised to leave the tourism accommodation market due to the Scottish Government’s onerous short-term let licensing rules.

The bombshell poll of two thousand and fifteen (2015) respondents showed that 64% of operators could now close their doors to guests due to the never-ending regulatory burden. The number of operators considering leaving the sector has increased since the First Minister Humza Yousaf said there would be no further delay to short-term let licensing.

Mr Yousaf’s recent comments were made despite volumes of media coverage highlighting widespread concern from the industry, who have seen their pleas and alternative regulatory solutions brushed aside by Scottish Ministers and officials; and that was after the launch of the New Deal for Business which was meant to usher in a more collaborative approach.

In a separate development, a cross-party group of nearly 40 MSPs, including former Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Fergus Ewing, as well as Scottish Conservative, Scottish Labour, and Scottish Lib Dem parliamentarians, signed a letter to the First Minister to pause the start of short-term let licensing.

By 1st October, all short-term lets – including self-caterers, guest houses, and B&B owners – have to apply for a licence to continue to operate, while corporately owned aparthotels are exempt. Licensing fees, which vary from council to council, are non-refundable which places more strain on small businesses weighing up the risk involved.

Reassurances from Scottish Ministers that operators have nothing to fear from the new scheme are not holding water. The number of licensing applications to local councils remains minimal, with official statistics showing Edinburgh Council had only received 90 “valid applications”, while in Glasgow it was just 78. Many hoped the Scottish Government would make changes to their widely criticised regulations, or at least await the outcome of various legal challenges into potentially unlawful schemes.

The ASSC poll also highlighted that:

  • 64% are considering whether or not to leave the sector, that includes those that have left, considering leaving or not sure whether they are leaving or not. This means that only 35% plan on not leaving the sector
  • Out of those considering whether or not to leave the sector, 93% include Short-Term Let Regulations as one of the reasons
  • Almost 1000 respondents (54%) are feeling pessimistic about the future of their business with a further 22% remaining neutral. 4.5 % feel very optimistic.
  • 79% say that the Short-Term Let Regulations have made them worried or anxious about the future
  • Only 10% of all respondents respond that the Short-Term Let Regulations have not negatively impacted on their mental health. 27% say the STL Regulations has affected their mental health seriously whilst a further 46% say their mental health has been affected a little
  • 63% (over 1100 respondents) believe that the handling of the Short-Term Let Regulations have led to greater division in communities, with only 8% saying it has not led to division
  • Of those that choose to close their business after the 1st October only 15% say their property will be sold
  • Out of those that will sell their property only 4.83% say it will be suitable for affordable housing

Ahead of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government on Tuesday 5th September, the ASSC are calling on the First Minister to do the right thing and back small businesses by getting to grips with short-term let licensing once and for all.

Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said:

“Halloween falls on 31st October but the real fright for Scotland’s self-caterers comes on 1st October. Despite numerous warnings which have regrettably been casually dismissed, the regulations remain unfit for purpose and will wreak untold damage on Scottish tourism and our reputation as a welcoming place to visit and do business.

Thousands of jobs are at risk in the mainstays of our tourist economy – self-catering and the B&Bs – and that’s before we even consider the impact on related tourism and hospitality industries that rely on their guest spend. This is another policy nightmare the First Minister could do without.

Rather than unpicking legislation once the damage has been done, Humza Yousaf needs to show leadership right now and support small tourism accommodation providers who are so vital to local economies across Scotland.

 That means an immediate pause to the regulations so government and business can work together collaboratively – in the spirit of the First Minister’s New Deal for Business – to get a balanced, fair, and legally sound regulatory framework that works for all.”

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