Below is a copy of the Cabinet Secretary’s letter, which sets out the reasons for taking this revised approach. The Scottish Government will also be publishing the guidance in draft format later this month.
The Herald (22/06/21):
SCOTLAND’S industry body for self-catering accommodation has drawn up plans for a registration scheme to allow businesses to opt out of the SNP’s plans to require Airbnb-style short-term lets to obtain a licence.
The SNP has confirmed it will hold another round of consultation to “make any other adjustments needed” to the plans before the finalised proposals are set out in September.
The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) has put forward the registration plans, which the organisation says is “balanced and proportionate” – amid fears half of traders could be at risk of closure if licensing plans are pushed forward.
The registration scheme would be managed by VisitScotland, which the ASSC say mirrors set-ups across Europe – where registration systems are overseen by tourism bodies.
But the Scottish Government has insisted that the registration scheme plans would not adequately protect guests and local communities and will therefore press ahead with licensing proposals.
The Scottish Government drew up plans for the owners of short-term lets and thousands of B&Bs to require a licence from their local council in order to operate after fears that too many properties were being taken out of the housing market – as well as problems with anti-social behaviour.
Health and safety standards are also key to the proposals.
But the plans were withdrawn after MSPs raised concerns over B&Bs unintentionally being swept up in the new laws.
The SNP’s Housing Secretary, Shona Robison, has now announced a “final round of consultation” will be held ahead of the final order being laid in September.
In a letter to Holyrood’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, Ms Robison announced that councils will now have until October 2022 to “establish a licensing scheme”, instead of the original April 2022 date – but stressed “the final deadline of April 1, 2024 for all short-term lets to be licensed” is unchanged.
Ms Robison added that ministers “do not consider it necessary” to push back the April 2023 deadline for existing short-term let hosts and operators must have applied for a licence by.
During talks with officials, Fiona Campbell, the chief executive of the ASSC, put forward her proposals – which she said has “an unprecedented level of cross-industry support”.
If approved, traders signed up to the registration scheme would essentially be exempt from the Scottish Government’s licensing plans.
Under the proposals, businesses that fail to register for the scheme or are unable to comply with conditions including health and safety standards, would no longer be exempt from obtaining a licence and could face hefty penalties.
Despite the licensing regime plans being paused before the election, a proposal to allow councils to set up control zones was approved.
The ASSC has claimed the registration scheme would give local authorities robust data to justify such a measure and “could support the evidence for the future introduction of a tourism tax”.
Ms Campbell said: “Our proposed solution for a mandatory registration scheme, backed by a range of business and tourism stakeholders, meets the policy objectives of the Scottish Government in a proportionate manner and will not unduly burden operators when we need our tourism economy to rebound after this devastating pandemic.
“Short-term let licensing is the last thing our industry needs at the current time.“
She added: “Our survey work has already shown that nearly half of self-catering operators would leave the sector if this came to pass and this will further compound the difficulties facing Scottish tourism when we should be supporting business for a sustainable recovery.
“Through learning lessons from the last parliamentary session when the licensing order was withdrawn, as well as assessing best practice elsewhere, the Scottish Government needs to introduce cost-effective and evidence-based short-term let regulations in partnership with industry – and that is precisely what our proposals do.”
But ministers have confirmed their commitment to the licensing regime and thrown cold water over the registration plans.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our licensing system will ensure a set of mandatory standards for all short-term lets which will help to protect the safety of guests, neighbours and local communities. A registration scheme does not offer that protection.
“Many hosts and operators will already be following these standards as a matter of compliance with existing law or best practice.”