“It’s a sham”: tourism bosses quit SNP repression group Airbnb

A HTE of leading Scottish tourism groups have left the SNP task force to help develop Airbnb-style short-term rental licensing plans.

The organizations – Airbnb, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), the Scottish B&B Association and the UK Short Term Accommodation Association – have all resigned from the Scottish Government group, calling it a ‘sham’ and accusing the SNP of having “continually moved the goal posts”.

The Scottish government has made clear its intention to introduce a licensing system for short-term rentals since January 2020 – with a spokesperson pointing out that the government is ‘surprised’ by the ‘disappointing’ decision to step down.

The licensing plans were developed in response to concerns, particularly in Edinburgh and parts of the Highlands, that an unregulated increase in the use of short-term rented properties is contributing to a housing crisis and causing antisocial behavior.

Plans to force all short-term rental operators to license were withdrawn ahead of the Holyrood election to address issues raised by industry and opposition PSMs.

But many concerns, including the traditional guesthouses swept away by the settlement, remained unresolved, leading to the decision to withdraw from the talks.

Tourism bodies have pointed to the lack of significant changes in legislation affecting traditional lodges and guesthouses, as well as shared accommodation – claiming that additional provisions have been added to the legislation, with some guesthouses now being taken into account in the plans. .

Industry executives have also accused the Scottish government, which is now in its third consultation on short-term rental regulation in four years, of acting with ‘cavalier contempt and indifference’ towards the concerns of the sector.

The industry has also been disappointed with the Scottish Government’s decision to ignore the registration plans offered by ASSC and pursue plans for a licensing regime.

READ MORE: SNP confirms delay in short-term rental licenses as opt-out plans are developed

ASSC Chief Executive Officer Fiona Campbell said: “Despite our best efforts and those of our Scottish tourism colleagues, this task force turned out to be a sham and so we decided to do it. leave.

“Throughout the process, although we have acted in good faith, this government has continually shifted the focus and acted with cavalier contempt and indifference to our sincere concerns and innovative ideas.

‘Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and long before that, the Scottish tourism industry has been a role model for others to follow – so it is extremely disappointing that our government has not been up to the same standards and did not support small businesses at this crucial time.

Bed & Breakfast Association President David Weston added: “Leaving the task force is not a decision my colleagues and I have taken lightly, but it seems of little use to stay.

“We have been frustrated every moment and it will be the Scottish B & Bs that will suffer if we continue to participate in what has become a farce.

“Our members expect us to act in their best interests and in the interests of the wider tourism industry, and it has been made clear that neither the Task Force nor the Scottish Government are interested in this type. dialogue. ”

READ MORE: Minister SNP: Short-term rental plans could penalize rural businesses

Ahead of the summer recess, Social Justice, Housing and Local Government Secretary Shona Robison told MSPs “The purpose of the licensing program is to ensure that short-term rentals are safe and to resolve issues. problems encountered by neighbors, in order to facilitate the knowledge and understanding of licensing authorities. what is happening in their region; and help deal with complaints effectively ”.

Ms Robison said after the last round of consultations, the licensing order will be issued to Holyrood in September.

She added: “Licensing authorities will now have until October 1, 2022 to establish a licensing regime, giving them one year from seeing the instrument as intended to do so.” . “However, the subsequent deadlines set in the legislation, including, in particular, the final deadline of April 1, 2024 for all short-term rentals to be authorized, are unchanged.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘The Scottish Government views the regulation of short-term rentals as vital in balancing the needs and concerns of residents and communities with broader economic and tourism interests.

“We have made it clear since January 2020 that the regulation of short-term rentals will include a licensing regime and the working group has always focused on refining and implementing this plan.

“So it’s surprising that these organizations – which we invited to be part of the working group to express their point of view – chose to leave at this point on the grounds that we are moving forward with licensing, rather than registration, this. which has been the case since January. 2020.

“We are disappointed that they have decided not to continue their participation in the working group and thank them for their contribution to the development of legislation and guidance on short-term rentals at this stage.”

Scottish Tories have warned SNP ministers should have done more to address the concerns of industry leaders.

READ MORE: COP26: Glasgow short-term rental landlords offered one year’s rent

Party spokesperson for business and enterprise Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “It is quite shocking how the SNP government has managed to leave these representatives to feel ignored and ignored as a result of organized talks. for the sole purpose of addressing their concerns.

“The Scottish tourism industry has every right to be frustrated, as it has suffered so badly during the pandemic, and SNP’s suggestions to increase regulation would be a further obstacle to their recovery.

“The Scottish Tories will continue to defend companies in the sector against these measures. Instead of adding red tape, SNP ministers should do more to support these companies.”

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