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Self-catering operators in Edinburgh set out to challenge the City of Edinburgh Council’s short-term let scheme with a Judicial Review

Whilst ensuring that the ASSC continues its role to work collaboratively with, and engage with the Scottish Government and Local Authorities, the association has a key responsibility to support its members across Scotland.

Over the coming weeks, the ASSC will be supporting members in Edinburgh to challenge The City of Edinburgh Council’s Short-Term Let scheme and has donated £1001 to the appeal to help raise funds to lodge a petition for a ‘Judicial Review‘.

We would encourage businesses across the sector to pledge to this fund to support change to the current licensing legislation put in place by the City of Edinburgh Council and avoid totally destroying the self-catering sector in a city that is vital to the Scottish tourism economy.

Four individual operators have come together and agreed to carry the burden and represent their community at large. They will be held liable for all costs incurred.

Support from across the sector is absolutely critical to make that prospect less daunting and give this challenge the best possibility of success.


“I’m Ralph. I’m a self-caterer. I was part of the hospitality sector long before the likes of Airbnb.com and Booking.com were a thing. Together with many others in our sector, we face the real threat of extermination under onerous new rules being applied retrospectively across the whole of Edinburgh. This could set a precedent for the rest of Scotland. If you run any form of self-catering style business – one which relies on, or benefits from this sector – then please read on because this directly affects you. It is time to stand up and get behind this campaign which aims to protect your rights and your livelihood.

WHY? On the 1st of October 2022 Short Term Let Licensing was introduced across Scotland by the Scottish Government. We understand the purpose of that legislation was originally to ensure that holiday properties across Scotland meet health and safety standards. We support that. We were assured by Government that reasonable operators would gain a licence. However, on 29th September 2022, the Regulatory Committee of the City of Edinburgh Council passed the city’s own licensing scheme, and it goes far beyond the spirit of the Scottish Government’s legislation. In its current form, together with planning regulations, there is no sign that reasonable operators will gain a licence. This must be challenged or self-catering in Edinburgh will be wiped out and the future of events, such as the Edinburgh Festival, will be at stake. This is about so much more than the four petitioners. We are simply representing everyone in Edinburgh whose business survives on self-catering. This is also about so much more than this city. If the Edinburgh scheme goes unchallenged, then it gives the green light to other local authorities to act against the spirit of the legislation and against the self-catering industry.

WHAT ARE WE PROPOSING? We are challenging The City of Edinburgh Council’s scheme with a Judicial Review. In doing so we have agreed as four individual operators to carry the burden and represent our community at large. We will be held liable for all costs incurred. Your support is absolutely critical to make that prospect less daunting and give this challenge the best possibility of success.

This may be a first for the petitioners but we’re confident that we have chosen the best legal team possible to represent us all. They are absolute experts in their field. Essentially, we have no choice but to raise this action. Everything is currently at stake for our community. We have to act now as the window to challenge the scheme is about to close.

Alongside myself, three other operators, Louise, Craig and Glenn with support from the ASSC, we are raising a petition to the Court of Session. We have already invested our own time and funds taking initial legal advice and we know that huge amounts of time will need to be invested in our fight. We have strong reason to believe our efforts will have a positive outcome. However, this legal action is very expensive and does not come without risk. We need your help. We can’t do it without you.

OBJECTIVE: Our aim is that reasonable operators should gain a licence. We hope that the Court will make a ‘determination’ on all or parts of the current licensing legislation. We hope that this determination will encourage The City of Edinburgh Council to go back to the drawing board and create a scheme that is fair, fit for purpose, safeguards the self-catering industry, and is focused on the health and safety of our guests. Our hope is that any determination on licensing will also force a redesign of proposed changes to planning regulations to ensure they also meet the principles of the determination.

HOW?: We need a fighting fund to pay for the legal challenge.

We encourage anybody who stands to be financially impacted to make a stand by supporting us. This is our only chance at justice after years of misguided ideas, incorrect facts and myths around our industry, which created the conditions for this legislative overreach.

There will be 4 stages to the legal challenge, with indicative dates, as follows:

Stage 1 “Lodging petition for Judicial Review” – Due by 28 December 2022
Stage 2 “Permissions stage” – Late February 2023
Stage 3 “Lodging of arguments” – Late April 2023
Stage 4 “Hearing” – Early Summer 2023
Each stage will require significant legal costs. If the case goes all the way to a ruling that would be Stage 4.

The purpose of this appeal initially is to raise funds for Stage 1. We must achieve this within the 30-day timeframe. We estimate the cost for Stage 1 to be £80,000.

Success for the petitioners would be for The City of Edinburgh Council to acknowledge their overreach and to work collaboratively on a better outcome for all parties. This may be before Stage 4 if the legal arguments are successful. It does not have to be that we go to a Stage 4 hearing. However, we need your help to take the case all the way… if that’s what it takes.

At each stage we will be reviewing the strength of our case and whether we have the funds to allow us to continue to challenge The City of Edinburgh Council’s right to effectively eradicate our sector and livelihoods. If we think our case is going positively, the petitioners need your support for Stage 2 of the process. This will cost up to £65,000 to proceed on top of the initial sum raised. Stage 3 is £75,000 on top of Stage 2 and, if we go all the way, for Stage 4 it will be up to £300,000 on top of Stage 3. Legal fees need to include paying the other side’s costs if we lose.

Rest assured, we are not taking this action in the belief that our case lacks merit.

Every little bit helps. Please give what you can. If you’re a guest and want to continue to be able to stay in self-catering in Edinburgh, please contribute. If every self-catering owner or ancillary operator running a business which relies on this sector chips in with £1,000 per property operated, we could very quickly meet the Stage 4 target. All funds should be considered as an investment towards the future of your business. Is your survival worth £1,000?

TRANSPARENCY: We realise asking our industry for such significant funds carries a weight of responsibility. For this, we will set up protocols to ensure there is transparency around the process and how funds are being spent. A Chartered Accountant will ensure expenses will be fully accounted for and reported as part of updates to those supporting this fight.

Everything raised via Crowd Justice goes directly to the lawyers and will be spent on legal efforts to challenge Edinburgh City Council’s interpretation of licensing legislation. Any funds unspent in meeting all legal costs incurred will be returned pro rata to supporters who give £1,000 or more.

This is our hour of reckoning. We must make a stand or accept that the fight is lost. I’m not ready to throw in the towel. I never saw myself as part of the vanguard that would come out fighting this in the courts, but it’s a calculated risk. If we fight we could still lose. But if we don’t fight, we will definitely lose.

My self-catering livelihood may survive this political pogrom. But what is the value for any of us in being amongst the last ones standing, if the scorched earth policy of The City of Edinburgh Council decimates and depresses the tourism sector for short-stay letting and all the ancillary businesses we support, potentially for years to come? We have been left with no choice but to fight for our right to exist.”

Ralph Averbuch, Self-Catering owner/operator

The following are the initial petitioners seeking this Judicial Review and have each pledged £4,000 to this fight.

  • Ralph Averbuch
  • Glenn Ford
  • Craig Douglas
  • Louise Dickins

With grateful thanks for the support of:-

  • The Association of Scotlands Self-Caterers
  • Anna Morris
  • Iain Muirhead
  • Mason & Carr Property Management Ltd
  • Marc Hughes

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