ASSC: New First Minister must seize the initiative and save Scotland’s self-catering industry

Fiona Campbell (Chief Executive of ASSC)

THE ASSOCIATION of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) has urged the SNP leadership candidates to reconsider the Scottish Government’s burdensome short-term let licensing scheme if they become First Minister. The ASSC, which represents over 1,700 members who operate businesses across Scotland, has written to Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to emphasise the need to make good on Scottish Government promises to ease the regulatory burden.

The trade association describes a “never-ending juggernaut of regulation” despite a cost-of-living crisis and the need for Covid recovery. This includes but is not limited to short-term let licensing, planning control areas, local planning policies, the National Planning Framework Policy 30, as well as the possibility of local tourist taxes.

This intervention comes as the respected Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University found that over three-quarters (77.5%) of operators feel the government’s short-term let legislation was a significant or medium threat to their business. Participants in the study also highlighted that the licensing legislation has no clear purpose, with confusion as to whether it aims to ensure health and safety standards or address housing challenges.

STL licensing has come under increasing fire from stakeholders in recent weeks, including leading venue operators at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe who warned that “there will simply not be enough accommodation for August’s Festivals” if secondary lets are squeezed out due to excessive regulations. However, caution isn’t just reserved to those working in tourism, as Police Scotland has commented that an influx of applications will have significant resourcing implications for an already overstretched force.

Despite the pledge that fees would be based on cost recovery, the cost of a one-year licence for some types of STL property in Edinburgh is around £6,000. Moreover, government claims that licensing wouldn’t have to be onerous do not tally with reality given exorbitant fees charged by councils, with some stipulating the need for properties to have costly layout plans or be fully carpeted or have adequate cutlery space.

The ASSC has now requested reset in business-government relations to ensure that small tourism businesses are supported and not tied down in unnecessary red tape. The next First Minister must reconsider the botched licensing scheme or many more operators will leave the sector to the detriment of our vital tourism industry.

Scotland’s self-catering industry is estimated to generate £867m per annum for the Scottish economy, providing 24,000 FTE jobs and boosting local communities the length and breadth of Scotland.

Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of the ASSC, commented:

“Many of the unintended consequences now sadly coming to pass were first articulated by the ASSC and other tourism stakeholders years ago. Indeed, despite commitments to ease the regulatory burden, we need a reset in business-governmental relations so action can follow on from mere words.

Operators are already leaving the sector in droves but it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a real opportunity to prepare regulations that fulfil the original policy objectives of short-term let licensing – to uphold health and safety standards – in a manner which doesn’t harm our tourist economy.

We must strive to work collaboratively to protect Scotland’s £867m self-catering industry and not burden small businesses who do so much to promote and enhance the country’s unique tourism offering and boost local economies.”

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