Allow ‘stealth tax’ on small businesses – West Highland Free Press – www.whfp.com

A leading tourism organization has criticized the Scottish Government’s controversial short-term licensing scheme, calling it a ‘stealth tax’.

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers also believe the new scheme will hit rural communities hardest as they struggle to recover from the economic impact of Covid.

The Scottish government is pushing ahead with plans to introduce a licensing system for self-catering, despite opposition from tourism bodies and the Highland Council.

Ministers want to tackle the rise in short-term rentals and Airbnb-style rentals in tourist hotspots such as Edinburgh and better balance community concerns with tourism benefits.

But many tourism organizations say the impending licensing legislation is the wrong model and want the government to opt for a more flexible and business-friendly form of registration.

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This week the ASSC, the trade body which represents the self-catering sector, said there was no evidence of the Scottish Government’s claims that the scheme would help ease the housing crisis in faced by many communities in Scotland.

In what the association has previously described as a ‘perfect storm’, it said Scotland’s multi-million pound self-catering sector was now facing continued Covid uncertainty, exacerbated by ‘damaging’ proposals such as licenses and control areas.

CDSA chief executive Fiona Campbell described the scheme as a ‘stealth tax’

CDSA chief executive Fiona Campbell said: “While this policy is littered with errors – the most important is in the name – it is not really a licensing scheme, it is a stealth tax on Scottish businesses, especially those in rural areas.

“Many people who run legitimate businesses in the Scottish countryside feel that this Scottish Government does not see them as a priority and this thoughtless and damaging stealth tax will do little to change that view, nor will it will not elicit support for any other regulatory burden such as a visitor tax.

“Rather than continue to engineer this perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances and misguided regulations, the Scottish Government should abandon this program and work with the small businesses that will be crucial to our recovery and future prosperity.”

Last year, four tourism organizations resigned from the Scottish Government’s short-term rentals task force, saying the scheme was ‘not fit for purpose’. These were the CDSA, Airbnb, the Scottish B&B Association and the UK Short-Term Accommodation Association.

Local authorities will each have to design a licensing system for short-term rental properties by October, with all operators then having to apply for a license by July 2024.

Article by Jackie MacKenzie.

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