ASSC slam “risible” Scottish Government short-term let licensing statistics

01/09/2023
Fiona Campbell (Chief Executive of ASSC)

THE ASSOCIATION of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) has hit out at “risible” statistics showing a low level of short-term let licensing applications across Scotland.

From 1st October 2023, all short-term lets from self-catering units to B&Bs, or people sharing a room of their home, will have to obtain a licence to operate.

The official statistics, published by the Scottish Government today, show a total 2,587 of so-called ‘valid applications’ for short term lets licences received by local authorities up to 31 March 2023. The Scottish Government’s BRIA to accompany the licensing regulations previously estimated that there were around 32,000 short-term lets in Scotland. 

The situation in Scotland’s two largest cities is stark. It showed Edinburgh Council had only received 90 “valid applications” for short-term let licensing in a city where the local council previously believed there were 12,000 such properties. In Glasgow, just 78 had been received. The figures only cover up to 31 March 2023 – the next tranche of data, covering April to June 2023, will not be available until after the October deadline.

This comes after a group of nearly 40 cross-party MSPs wrote to the First Minister Humza Yousaf urging a halt to short-term let licensing and to rethink his plans. One of the signatories, former Tourism Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP, told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, that the current regulations would: “decimate the short term lets sector.  It will mean that the cost of hotel rooms will go up even more to more expensive levels, with the result that family holidays will become something that only well-off folk can afford in Scotland and it will drive more people on less well-off incomes to holiday abroad.”

The MSP revealed that he had received calls from business owners in his constituency who were “in tears” as they were unable to cope with the process and were going to lose their livelihood.

Mr Ewing called on the First Minister to show “real leadership” to reset business relationships by pausing the licensing scheme, adding that he should “sit round the table with the excellent representatives such as Fiona Campbell and David Weston of self-catering and B&Bs; they want to and they do their best for their customers in Scotland.  We should be proud of them.  We should not be penalising them.”

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

“Short-term let licensing remains riddled with problems as the 1st October deadline approaches and these statistics offer cold comfort for the Scottish Government. Widespread concern remains throughout the sector after Ministers completely ignored our policy solutions to put things right.

While the data only covers up to 31 March 2023, the flow of applications remains only a trickle and is unlikely to change anytime soon due to the massive legal uncertainty faced by many local schemes and the onerous and costly nature of the application process. In Edinburgh, a whopping 97% of businesses haven’t submitted an application. When Edinburgh-based operators are confronted with a 98% chance of rejection through the planning system, why would they even bother to take forward an application at all?

Indeed, what the frankly risible statistics don’t show is the total cost for these applications for small businesses like self-catering and B&Bs. For many, it is a cost too high to bear and many long-established self-caterers have already said enough is enough.

The Scottish Government urgently needs to take stock and pause their licensing scheme to properly get a grip of the situation and work constructively with stakeholders – in the spirit of the First Minister’s New Deal for Business – to put in place a fair, balanced and legally sound regulatory framework.”

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