ASSC: Poll paints bleak picture while Humza Yousaf turns his back on tourism

Humza Yousaf

WITH just one day to go before the deadline for applications to be submitted, a new snap survey from the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) paints a bleak picture as numerous small businesses are poised to leave the tourism accommodation market due to the Scottish Government’s onerous short-term let licensing rules.

The poll of 1367 respondents showed that a third of operators have still not applied for a licence, citing the onerous, complex regulatory burden, and the high costs involved. As the deadline for applications approaches, the volumes of media coverage generated, which consistently highlight the numerous flaws in the legislation, have not swayed the First Minister who has reneged on his promise to sit down with the ASSC. During his successful bid to become leader of the SNP, Mr Yousaf vowed to meet with ASSC Chief Executive Fiona Campbell, but his broken promise mirrors his government’s attitude to the sector and small businesses in Scotland. Subsequent letters asking for the First Minister to keep his promise have been ignored.

By 1st October, all short-term lets – including self-caterers, guest houses, and B&B owners, as well as those who let out a room in their own homes or when they are on holiday – have to apply for a licence to continue operating, while corporately owned aparthotels are exempt. Licensing fees, which vary from council to council, are non-refundable which places more strain on small businesses who, naturally, are weighing up the costs and risks involved.

Continued reassurances from Scottish Ministers that operators should simply ‘get their applications in’, do not recognise the onerous red tape that needs to be completed nor does it address high costs of applying to continue operating as these businesses have done, in some cases for decades. An additional layer of new planning policies being applied retrospectively is proving an immediate barrier for others, preventing people from being able to apply for a licence at all.

Businesses who have successfully applied for a licence are few and far between. Only fourteen businesses in Edinburgh and three businesses in Glasgow have been successful in obtaining a licence.

The ASSC poll highlighted that:

  • 61% of respondents have applied for a STL licence overall
  • This reduces to 34% in Glasgow (that have applied) and 42% in Edinburgh.
  • In Edinburgh 4.59% (out of those that have applied) have had a licence granted (14 businesses) and in Glasgow 6% out of those applied have had a licence granted (3 businesses)
  • 84% of respondents in total have not had a licence granted
  • Out of the of businesses that have not yet applied for a licence 31% do not plan on applying with a further 13% not sure yet.
  • A total of 525 businesses in the survey have not yet applied for a STL Licence
  • 31% of business give the primary reason for not yet applying is that ‘The Process is onerous, complex and time consuming’.
  • 19% say that have their application ready but have been holding off in case the legislation was amended or there was a delay.
  • 15 % have not applied yet due to planning. This increases to 29% in Edinburgh and 33% in Glasgow.

The Scottish Government has made much of their efforts to help small businesses but their attitude regarding small businesses in Scotland’s vital tourism sector is the antithesis of what they claim. Any promise of a New Deal for Business has been dashed, whilst livelihoods are being destroyed.

Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said:

“Sadly, Humza Yousaf has stuck his head in the sand and decided not to listen to the thousands of businesses which are under threat thanks to this onerous scheme. The numerous warnings from across the sector have fallen on deaf ears. The ASSC still contends that the regulations remain unfit for purpose and will wreak untold damage on Scottish tourism and our reputation as a welcoming place to visit and do business.

The First Minister needs to show leadership right now and support small tourism accommodation providers who are so vital to local economies across Scotland. Thousands of jobs remain at risk in the heart of our tourist economy – self-catering and B&Bs – and that’s before we even consider the impact on related tourism and hospitality industries that rely on their guest spend.

There’s still time pause and reflect on the mess that this legislation is creating, it will be much more difficult to unpick once the damage has been done.”

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