Scottish tourism industry warns SNP’s new Airbnb crackdown plans fail

The SCOTLAND tourism industry has warned that SNP’s updated plans to require Airbnb-style short-term leased properties to be licensed have “fundamentally failed” to address their concerns.

The Scottish Government has released its updated plans, which have been subject to another round of consultations, to require owners of short-term leased properties to obtain a license from their local council or face a penalty of up to up to £ 50,000.

The proposals were withdrawn ahead of the election over fears that traditional B&B would be swept away by legislation despite an initial consultation stating that they would be exempted.

But tourism business leaders have criticized updated plans, released as Holyrood closes for the summer vacation, which will still require traditional B&B owners to obtain a license in order to operate.

READ MORE: SNP Confirms Delay in Short-Term Rental Licenses as Opt-Out Plans Made

After the proposals were put on hold by then-Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, tourism and business executives held talks with officials to iron out the issues.

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) has presented plans to allow businesses that meet health and safety standards to opt out of the licensing regime in favor of a streamlined registration regime, overseen by Visit Scotland – but ministers confirmed the plans were rejected. .

Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive Officer of ASSC, said: “The Scottish Self-Employed Association and other tourism stakeholders have engaged constructively with the Short Term Rentals Working Group to find solutions to concerns raised during the last parliamentary session regarding the licensing order. which was widely considered unfit for use.

“Unfortunately, the updated proposals do not strike the proper balance and contain only minimal changes. Contrary to commitments made, it has fundamentally failed to address the concerns of the tourism industry – and this at a time when many businesses are struggling due to the impact of Covid-19. ”

She added: “An onerous licensing regime is the last thing our industry needs during these difficult times. Our investigative work shows that approximately half of our lodge operators would close their businesses if this happened.

“It is not too late for the Scottish government to change course and support Scottish tourism for a sustainable recovery. Our proposals for a compulsory registration scheme, which crucially addresses health and safety issues, will help secure the Scottish Government’s policy objectives in a more cost-effective and proportionate way. ”

READ MORE: Airbnb regulations ‘will put thousands of rural jobs at risk’

An Airbnb spokesperson added: ‘Airbnb has long been calling for clear rules that work for everyone in Scotland, but we share the tourism industry’s concerns that these specific proposals are too complex, costly and bureaucratic. .

“This is why the tourism industry has come forward with clearer proposals that will achieve the same goals while supporting local families and helping to accelerate Scotland’s economic recovery. We remain committed to working with the Scottish Government as part of their consultation to ensure we get it right. ”

Under the revised plans, leases and some agricultural and crofting leases are now exempt – while local authorities can exempt premises from the requirement “for a particular occasion or up to six weeks per year”, potentially saving money. owners who rent out properties during the festival. season in Edinburgh to need to obtain a license, subject to rules set by Edinburgh City Council.

But traditional guesthouses will not be exempted under the updated plans, and ASCC’s registration plans have been slashed because they “would make arrangements more complicated.”

Scottish Conservative local government spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Ahead of the election, the SNP finally listened to lobbying from Scottish Conservatives and tourism companies to drop these plans.

Scottish Conservative local government spokesperson Miles Briggs

“However, we warned at the time that they were just throwing the decision back in the long grass. They have now brought back those misguided proposals and sneaked them back after Parliament was dissolved for the summer recess. ”

He added: “They are clearly trying to avoid scrutiny of this issue. SNP ministers must fully engage with industry in the coming weeks and listen to their serious concerns.

“The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to stand with the industry to oppose these proposals, which are unworkable in their current format.”

The third round of consultation will run until August 13.

Under the proposed legislation, boards will now have until October 1, 2022, instead of the original April 2022, to establish a licensing regime, with all short-term permits to be authorized by April 1. 2024.

READ MORE: MSP-Approved Airbnb-Style Short-Term Rental Control Zones

Existing hosts and operators must apply for a license before April 1, 2023.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said, “Regulation of short-term rentals is vital if we are to balance the needs and concerns of our communities with broader economic and tourism interests.

“Short-term rentals can provide people with a flexible and cheaper travel option and have positively contributed to our tourism industry and local economies across the country.

“However, we know that in some areas, especially tourist hot spots, a high number of short-term rentals can cause problems for neighbors and make it more difficult for people to find accommodation.

“By granting local authorities appropriate regulatory powers through a licensing system, we can ensure that short-term rentals are safe and address the issues faced by residents and local communities.

“This will allow local authorities to better understand what is going on in their regions and to contribute to the efficient handling of complaints. ”

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