by Countryside Alliance

A recent letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, Shona Robison, to the Local Government Housing and Planning Committee, has highlighted a number of issues to be revisited following a consultation by the Scottish Government on short-term rental properties. 

The letter comes after concerns were raised by key stake-holders surrounding the proposed licensing of short term rentals, such as holiday accommodation and B&B’s throughout Scotland. Following what has been an extremely difficult time for rural businesses, particularly in the tourism sector, the thought of yet more restrictions and hoops to jump through is hardly welcomed. In the correspondence it does acknowledge the significant contribution by the individuals and organisations involved throughout the consultation process, and many of the concerns raised have been reacted to positively. In fact this had led to a further consultation to fully understand the issues raised.

Scotttish Countryside Alliance Director, Jake Swindells said: “Although we raised serious concerns to the Scottish Government in our manifesto, it is heartening to see that they are seeking clarification on some of the points raised by key stakeholders and, in some cases, have already discarded unworkable elements that may have been introduced. We welcome these positive changes and will continue to engage with Ministers, offering our continued assistance where necessary”.

The Scottish Government state that this process is to ensure that short-term lets are “safe and address issues faced by neighbours”. The popularity of AirBnB properties has had a profound effect on traditional holiday accommodation providers. In some cases, offering a much cheaper letting alternative has occasionally paved the way for incidents such as anti-social behaviour or theft so it is easy to see why a level of regulation may serve to protect the average host or business owner. The Scottish Government also argue that it is a way for licensing authorities to better understand what is going on in their area.

Inevitably the licensing of letting businesses will come with a cost but after hearing the concerns of the consultation respondents, ScotGov have listened and rightly conceded in a number of areas. It is thought that there will be no set cost of being granted a licence. A suggested average fee will be issued to licensing authorities and this may be based on the annual revenue or capacity of the business. In some cases the fee may be higher than the average but, it may also be lower. The running costs of the scheme will be borne by the applicants fee’s, but this has already been reduced since the government accept that the applicant could publicise the nature of their application, rather than the licensing authority carrying out the work. This is likely to be a simple template application notice to be displayed at the property. 

ScotGov have also conceded on the amount of compulsory public liability that would be required (initially set at five million pounds) and have, instead, agreed that “adequate insurance” would suffice. 

Another area in which they have compromised is that of property inspections. A property should only now be liable to a formal authority inspection if specific circumstances arise. This could be anything from repeated poor reviews online, reports from Police or other agencies or other intelligence-led information. A standard application should now adopt an element of trust whereby the applicant will affirm that their property meets the required standard.

Consideration is being given to ensuring local residents and interested groups are aware of what is happening in their community, and the willingness of Ministers to listen is pretty evident in this case. The pre-election Scottish Countryside Alliance Manifesto highlighted the damage that a poorly considered licensing scheme could do to the sector, and thankfully Holyrood are fully engaging with stakeholders to progress a workable scheme that offers some protection to those who financially rely on this industry to survive.  

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