Self-caterers in Scotland, led by The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, have urged a Holyrood committee to reject “damaging” regulations that could “cripple the sector and jeopardise the recovery of Scottish tourism”.
The self-catering trade association called on the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee not to back the Scottish Government’s proposals, which have been met by widespread opposition from the tourism industry.
The Local Government Committee voted in favour of implementing a licensing system for short-term lets by four to three, and six to one in favour of plans to enforce “control areas” across the country to limit the presence of short-term lets.
Under the proposals, bed and breakfast properties would also be regulated in the same way as Airbnb-style self-catered accommodation. Short-term rental operators would also be required by law to pay around £300 for each accommodation they rent out in order to obtain a three-year licence.
The ASSC said that it had provided substantial written evidence to the committee highlighting the danger of the plans. The committee also received an unprecedented number of submissions from people, including from hundreds of concerned self-catering and B&B owners, whose businesses have been severely affected by the pandemic.
Scotland’s self-caterers are reported to have lost over £230million since September 2020 alone due to Covid-19 and the cost of additional licensing could inflict a fatal blow on the sector according to the ASSC, with nearly 50 per cent stating that they would leave the sector as a result.
The trade association expressed its disappointment that the government had “ignored calls to postpone the regulations, including a letter signed by the ASSC alongside the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the FSB, CBI Scotland, and Scottish Land & Estates, and dismissed alternatives from the ASSC for a proportionate and evidence-based registration scheme for short-term lets”.
The ASSC added that “instead of listening to the industry, Scottish ministers elected to put in place a slapdash consultation, a late and inadequate Business Regulatory Impact Assessment, and a range of poorly drafted statutory instruments, leading to the inclusion of B&Bs in the regulations, much to the confusion of industry representatives who were not consulted”.
If the legislation is passed on Wednesday [10 February], the consequences of the regulations would not be limited to Scottish tourism. Several local councils highlighted the administrative and financial burden of the regulations, as the Scottish Government would not provide funding for initial set-up costs, with Highland Council calling for implementation to be delayed.
ASSC chief executive Fiona Campbell said: “Our members, each of whom represent a small business at risk, have turned out in droves to respond to the call for evidence on this issue vital to their survival. The strength of feeling among Scottish self-caterers could not be clearer; these regulations risk killing off our businesses.
“The scope of the regulations has spiralled out of control and will unleash a myriad of unintended consequences for operators throughout the land at a time when they can least afford it.
“We therefore implore MSPs on the Committee to back small business and the eventual recovery of Scottish tourism by rejecting these poorly drafted and ill-considered regulations,” she added.
David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager, Federation of Small Businesses [FSB], said: “When all minds should be focused on surviving the pandemic and its aftermath, this is not the time to be introducing new regulations that weaken our chances of recovery.”