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Short-Term Let Regulations in Scotland

Short-Term Let Regulations are coming into force in Scotland.


Tourism is a force for good in Scotland. It makes a major contribution to our country’s GDP, impacts on jobs, spreads wealth across the whole of Scotland; and is a sustainable, innovative and indigenous industry that offers huge potential. Nationally and locally, it benefits our communities.

The ASSC are rightly proud that self-catering has been a mainstay of the Scottish tourism industry for generations and is integral to its success and future vitality. Professional self-caterers are part of local communities across Scotland and have been for many, many years. Their value is demonstrated by the considerable economic contribution: self-catering provides a £867m per annum boost to the Scottish economy, benefiting local communities the length and breadth of Scotland, supporting 23,979 FTE jobs:

We are immensely proud of our businesses, of those we employ, and our record of not only being a fundamental part of Scotland’s world class tourism offering but also of the communities that we live and work in. Given the importance of self-catering to the Scottish tourism industry, which has experienced such a challenging time due to the impact of Covid-19, an appropriate regulatory balance is a necessity, as is a supportive environment to help businesses recover and flourish.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Government has chosen this time to introduce a controversial regulatory framework for short-term lets in Scotland.

Short-Term Let Licensing and Planning Control Areas

The Scottish Government has introduced a licensing regime for short-term lets in Scotland. Anyone looking to grant a short-term let for the first time from 1 October 2022 will need a licence before they do so. Those who are already operating short-term lets before 1 October 2022 must apply for a licence by 1 April 2023 if they wish to continue doing so. It will be an offence punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 for short-term lets granted without a licence.

Every local authority is tasked with setting up a licensing system by 1 October 2022. Existing short-term letting operators should consider the potential planning requirements as well as checking whether their property meets the required licensing standards. For those considering entering the short-term letting market, the additional cost of a licence and potentially planning permission should be taken into account. If buying a property, they should consider what information or evidence the seller might provide to allow short-term letting to continue or indeed begin.

In addition, new planning rules on short-term letting introduce a new power for local authorities to designate the whole or any part of their area as a Control Area. The effect of being in a Control Area is to make use for short-term letting of a whole dwelling house or whole self-contained flat, which is not the home of the host (a secondary letting), a material change of use as a matter of law. Such a secondary letting within a Control Area will always need planning permission as well as a licence.

As yet, there are no confirmed Control Areas but the City of Edinburgh Council has consulted on the whole of the council area being a Control Area and Highland Council are also consulting on whether Badenoch and Strathspey should become one.

Legislation pertaining to Short-Term Lets

It is important to note that these two pieces of legislation are very different, despite the issues being conflated over the last 5 years.  Licensing relates to the safety of an activity, while planning control areas relate to the use of properties.

Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers

Founded in 1978, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) are the leading source of knowledge on short-term letting and holiday homes in Scotland and are the only trade body representing the interests of the traditional self-catering sector. Self-catering properties have been a longstanding presence in communities for generations, especially in rural communities, and provide an economic boost for local areas and enhance Scotland’s tourist accommodation offering. We represent over 1350 Members, operating tens of thousands of self-catering properties throughout Scotland, from city centre apartments to rural cottages, to lodges and chalets, to castles, all of whom generate £867m per year for the Scottish economy. The ASSC commits its members to maintaining the principles of “quality, integrity, cleanliness, comfort, courtesy and efficiency” and to offering visitors to Scotland consistently high standards within their self-catering properties. The ASSC’s vision is to place our members at the forefront of a professional, vibrant and prosperous Scottish self-catering sector.

The ASSC did not want the form of short-term let licensing that is now on the statute book – a view shared by many stakeholders as well as local authorities in Scotland – and we continue to maintain that it will entail unintended consequences.

However, now that the legislation has been passed by the Scottish Government, and as we move towards the implementation stage and licensing schemes going live across the country, we want local councils to work with us and other relevant tourism and legal stakeholders, to ensure the smoothest possible rollout and to reduce the regulatory burden as much as possible.

In our ASSC manifesto, published prior to the local elections in May Self-Catering: Local, Reliable, Sustainable[1], we highlighted that self-catering can lead the way in providing holiday accommodation that balances the creation of memory-making vacations for our guests while also being a key part of our cities, towns, and villages.

To achieve this, our requests from local government over the next five years were:

  1. To Minimise the Burden of Short-Term Let Licensing: councils should work closely with small business representatives and industry to try and minimise the burden from licensing as much as possible, then carefully monitor its impacts, and not to impose ‘additional conditions’ on already hard-pressed businesses.
  1. To Ensure an Evidence-Base for Short-Term Let Control Areas: now is not the time to further burden selfcatering with additional regulations like control areas but if local plans are proposed, they should be underpinned by robust, empirical data.

Whatever happens in terms of the local elections, or how local authorities will implement this legislation, we will aspire to work constructively and collaboratively with our national and local government partners for the benefit of our members, local communities and our industry’s recovery. That’s our pledge to our members and our sector.

[1] https://www.assc.co.uk/policy/local-government-election-manifesto-2022/

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