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Local Government Committee approves ‘arbitrary, irrational & draconian’ short-term let licensing plans

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee have today approved the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce short-term let licensing. The regulations will now head to plenary for a vote of all MSPs at a later date.

During their meeting, the Committee heard evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Housing Shona Robison, accompanied by her officials, who took questions from MSPs. They was also joined by the former Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Fergus Ewing who raised a number of concerns relating to the licensing proposals.

Mr Ewing highlighted that the industry’s proposals for mandatory short-term let registration, just as with the Scottish Landlord Register, could include a fit and proper test – which the government maintained wasn’t the case when dismissing our exemption proposal. He also made valuable points in relation to the existing regulations faced by industry, anti-social behaviour powers that local councils needed to enforce, and the threat of judicial review arising from the licensing proposals.

Questions were also put on the following from other MSPs:

  • The data underpinning the Scottish Government’s plans.
  • Whether overprovision powers could be brought back at a later date.
  • Why a mandatory registration scheme had been rejected in favour of licensing.
  • The costs to local authorities arising from licensing, specifically the differences in the level of fees estimated in the Scottish Government’s BRIA and those from SOLAR.
  • If the Scottish Government had considered piloting their regulations, or giving local councils full powers to determine whether licensing was appropriate for their area.
  • The costs to business from licensing and compliance costs – and if many businesses would close as a result.
  • The views of Police Scotland on short-term let licensing and the anti-social behaviour powers already available to local councils in respect of holiday lets.
  • The Scottish Government’s planned review of licensing in 2023.

After the Committee discussion, the licensing plans were approved by five votes to two.

You can view a recording of the evidence session and vote here: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/local-government-housing-and-planning-committee-december-21-2021

In response to today’s development, the ASSC have issued the following comment.

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

“The ASSC is naturally disappointed that the Committee has agreed to the revised Licensing Order. This is despite the strength of opposition highlighted in their recent survey, not to mention widespread concern from tourism, business and local authority stakeholder responses in the Scottish Government’s third consultation exercise on the issue.

We maintain that the Scottish Government’s regulations were unfit for purpose when withdrawn in February 2021 and remain so in December 2021, largely as industry and expert insight has been dismissed. Make no mistake, they will damage the Scottish tourism industry – which is still in survival mode – and will burden local councils at a time they can least afford it.

It also comes at the worst possible time for self-caterers and B&B owners who face an uncertain future with the challenges associated with Covid-19. Policymakers need to take these circumstances into account and support small and micro businesses through this and minimise the burden.

We endorse the views expressed at the Committee by the former Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Fergus Ewing on the merits of a mandatory registration scheme, which contrary to the position of the Scottish Government, could include a fit and proper person test. Mr Ewing also raised the valuable economic contribution made by the industry but that many operators will now fear their business being confiscated through the draconian powers made available to local councils and the risk of judicial review therein.

These regulations are, in the words of the former Cabinet Secretary, ‘arbitrary, irrational & draconian’, and it is not too late for the Scottish Government to think again. With the regulations now heading to a vote in plenary, we would therefore strongly encourage all MSPs to back small business and protect livelihoods in Scotland’s £867m self-catering industry by rejecting these ill-timed and onerous plans.”



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