Small business owners gather outside Holyrood to voice STL licensing concerns

Fiona Campbell (Chief Executive of ASSC)

SMALL tourism accommodation providers met with MSPs outside the Scottish Parliament to flag their concerns about the impact of short-term let licensing which is causing increased anxiety and unease for small businesses across Scotland. 

By 1st October 2023, all short-term lets in Scotland – including self-caterers, B&B owners, occasional home sharers, and people who home swap – have to apply for a licence to continue to operate, while corporately owned aparthotels remain exempt. Many operators have been faced with extortionate (and non-refundable) fees, as well as increased bureaucracy, which has left them making life-changing decisions about their future within Scottish tourism.

Indeed, a recent ASSC survey has shown that around two-thirds of operators are actively considering leaving the sector, and official statistics have shown that the number of licensing applications to local authorities – especially in Scotland’s two biggest cities – remains minimal. 

On the day the First Minister Humza Yousaf unveils his Programme for Government, accommodation providers – including self-caterers and B&B owners – spoke with a range of cross-party politicians. This was an opportunity for the politicians to hear at first hand from constituents whose businesses are under threat of closure as a direct consequence of the Scottish Government’s botched licensing scheme.  

Despite numerous warnings which have regrettably been casually dismissed, the ASSC argues 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 ASSC calls on the First Minister to illustrate true leadership, do the right thing and back small accommodation providers, the wider tourism industry and supply chain by halting their plans for short-term let licensing to undertake a much-needed review.

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

“The gathering outside the Scottish Parliament demonstrates the considerable strength of feeling from our sector where jobs and livelihoods are under threat to due to short-term let licensing. The Scottish Government needs to listen and act on their concerns as a matter of urgency.  

The time to act is now and we simply cannot wait until further down the line, unpicking the flawed legislation, when irrevocable damage will have already been done to local economies. We know two-thirds of operators are actively considering leaving the market – and this will have knock-on effects for other businesses within tourism and hospitality who depend on the guest spend of those staying in self-catering and B&Bs, not to mention the service providers who support our businesses. 

The ASSC is not against regulation, indeed we have been calling for proportionate, justifiable, targeted regulation since 2016. That regrettably, is not what we have been given. Indeed, policies across Scotland are unlawful. Ministers are quick to claim that they are listening and that they are engaging with us. They are not. 

The First Minister can avoid the impending disaster by doing the right thing and supporting small business. This can be done by pausing these regulations and working constructively with industry – in the spirit of the New Deal for Business – to get a balanced, fair, and legally sound regulatory framework that works for all.”

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