Self-catering properties have long been woven into the fabric of Scottish communities, especially in rural and remote areas, contributing significantly to the local economy and enriching Scotland’s tourism offerings. As of December 6, 2023, there are 17,124 self-catering units on non-domestic rates in Scotland, representing a mere 0.6% of the total dwellings in the country.
These self-catering properties are not merely hobbies or income supplements; they are bona fide businesses supporting livelihoods and providing essential economic benefits. According to Frontline Consultants, these properties generate 2.4 million visitor nights per year, contribute £867.1 million to total visitor spend, and support 23,979 full-time equivalent jobs.
However, discussions about regulating the short-term letting sector have often been based on unreliable scraped data from online platforms. The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) emphasises the need for robust, empirical data to inform regulatory decisions. Despite proactive sharing of evidence-based policy papers since 2017, the focus has been disproportionately on unreliable data from specific platforms.
The ASSC has written a paper which addresses the misconception that short-term lets are a primary cause of Scotland’s housing crisis. By presenting a holistic view, considering factors such as empty homes, demographic changes, and the need for increased housing construction, the ASSC aims to contribute to an informed conversation about an appropriate regulatory framework.
The discussion delves into recent legal developments, including Lord Braid’s opinion on short-term lets as a form of tenancy and the implications of a second Judicial Review against City of Edinburgh Council in December 2023 regarding planning permission. The paper emphasises the importance of distinguishing between empty homes, second homes, and self-catering accommodations and advocates for clear definitions in housing policy.
Key definitions, such as that of self-catering accommodation and non-domestic properties, are outlined, emphasising the need to differentiate them from second and empty homes. The paper also highlights the potential unintended consequences of imposing additional regulations on self-catering units, particularly during challenging times for the Scottish tourism sector.
In conclusion, the paper stresses that short-term let regulations should be based on robust empirical data and not be seen as a panacea for broader housing issues. Small businesses, like self-catering establishments deeply rooted in communities, should not bear the brunt of housing policy failures. Instead, policymakers are urged to support legitimate professional businesses and Scotland’s renowned tourism sector as the nation recovers from the impacts of COVID-19 and navigates the cost of living crisis.