The ASSC have always sought a collaborative and cross-party approach to short-term let regulation. While disappointed that we were not able to persuade SNP and Scottish Green MSPs, we are very grateful for the support of Scottish Conservative, Scottish Labour and Scottish Lib Dem MSPs who voted against short-term let licensing to protect our sector, as well as the shrewd and informed interventions from former Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP who backed Scottish tourism by speaking out against these “arbitrary, irrational, and draconian” regulations.
To all of our members who have taken the time to respond to the three separate short-term let consultations, provided written evidence to parliamentary committees, as well as contacting local MSPs, I offer a heartfelt thank you. Your efforts were deeply appreciated by the ASSC, just as your continued hard work and dedication to our sector is appreciated by your guests. Sadly, this sense of appreciation has not been shared by those making decisions about your livelihood. Instead, MSPs have agreed to a piece of legislation that remains unfit for purpose, lacks an evidence base and was more often than not based on groundless fears, anecdote and hearsay. The sector has been used as a convenient scapegoat for wider policy failures by government, especially on housing.
Looking back over the piece, it has been a long journey since the regulatory discussion ramped up around five years ago when the Scottish Government began to examine the issue through their Expert Panel on the Collaborative Economy. Throughout that period, the ASSC has been proactive and constructive in its relationship with government, offering up alternative solutions but challenging when necessary; and in more recent times, we worked tirelessly to try and persuade government that licensing was the wrong approach. All of this involved hundreds of meetings with Scottish Government Ministers and officials, MSPs, councillors, and industry stakeholders. It included the circulation of briefings and evidence-based reports, not to mention attendance at endless workshops and working groups, as well as near constant press activity.
We weren’t alone in opposing bad regulation: we had the support of nearly all of the tourism industry (with some notable exceptions) as well as the small business community. We even developed our own policy recommendations – a mandatory registration scheme with health and safety provisions – as well as an exemption policy. These were, however, casually dismissed by government.
However, if it wasn’t for our collective efforts, the regulations could have been passed a lot sooner and been far more damaging. The numbers have always been there in the previous and current session for this to happen. Our work has not been in vain. With the regulations passed by MSPs, we must now reflect what this means for the sector. The Scottish Government have revealed that there will be a review of licensing in summer 2023, and while the precise details of this remain unclear, we will of course be putting our views forward to help protect self-catering and mitigate the worst effects of this damaging legislation.
This has not been the most auspicious of starts to the new year but the ASSC are determined to keep fighting on this issue and others of great importance to our sector in the weeks ahead.
Fiona Campbell, CEO, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers.