SNP faces legal threat over Airbnbs crackdown

SNP ministers have been threatened with lawsuits to challenge a proposed crackdown on Airbnb-style short-term rentals – after industry bosses warned updated plans would cause “significant damage to the industry Scottish tourist ‘.

The Scottish government has been forced to update its plans for regulating short-term rentals after withdrawing the initial proposals at the last minute to fix the issues. Concerns were expressed that traditional guesthouses were on the verge of being overtaken by the plans.

But the Association of Scottish Self-Caterers (ASSC) told ministers there was a “complete lack of significant industry engagement”.

In a scathing submission to MSPs reviewing the updated plans, the ASSC warned that the plans are now the “biggest threat” to businesses – stressing that “poor regulation that will fundamentally harm tourism in Scotland and the thousands of small businesses that form the backbone of our industry ”.

ASCS, along with other tourism groups, left the Scottish Government task force to help develop updated plans after what ASCC said was a failure “to listen and address our concerns. and those of other stakeholders ”.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a sham’: Tourism bosses quit SNP’s Airbnb crackdown

The organization had presented alternative plans for short-term rental companies to join a registration program, which the group said were “accidentally rejected” by SNP ministers “out of hand without discussion. nor even any proper explanation ”.

The submission also highlights a quote attributed to Housing Secretary Shona Robison in a government impact assessment, in which the minister asserted that “the impact on business was assessed with the support of businesses. in Scotland”.

Housing Secretary Shona Robison

But the ASSC insisted that “this is just not correct”, adding that the impact assessment “is not supported by businesses or tourism organizations in Scotland”.

The submission adds that tourism groups “must now consider our legal options,” warning that “preliminary legal advice has already identified potential areas of challenge under the Regulation on the provision of services of the European Convention on Human Rights. man and as a consequence of the lack of appropriate consultation ”.

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

He adds: “Further, we have identified and will seek counsel’s opinion that the order in its present form is ultra vires the powers under which it is purported to be made. ”

ASSC Managing Director Fiona Campbell said: “The Scottish Government’s licensing proposals continue to pose a real threat to Scottish self-catering and are broadly and clearly inadequate.

“Rather than this botched approach, the government should listen to our concerns and our evidence-based ideas, and seriously consider the mandatory industry registration regime.

“While so far this process has been a series of disappointments and disappointments, it is not too late for the government to change course, stay true to its pre-election promises to the industry and support small businesses. for a certain time. sustainable recovery of Covid-19.

The ASCS also claimed that “the policy has been driven largely by anecdotes and by statistically insignificant but noisy activists in one or two localized areas.”

The submission adds: ‘In particular, it is indisputable that the Scottish Government has not been able to produce strong data or evidence to show the correlation between the lack of availability of affordable housing and the link to short rentals. term.

“The proposed licensing order is a blunt tool to solve a perceived and localized problem of amateur operators, mainly in Edinburgh, rather than being an appropriate solution for the whole of Scotland.”

But research by Edinburgh City Council has shown that of more than 60,000 private rented homes in the capital, “there is an estimated 10% loss … in parts of north Edinburgh.”

The study adds that “research also indicates a shift in demand, with rents clearly above average (between 20 and 27% over the period 2014-17) in areas bordering a high concentration of short-term rentals” .

Scottish Conservative tourism spokesman Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “It is hardly surprising that the independents have delivered this damning verdict on SNP’s plans for short-term rentals.

“At every turn, SNP ministers have ignored their concerns, and now we are seeing new accusations against ministers of making false statements of support for the business sector.

“In what has been an embarrassing blow to their plans, other tourism organizations have already left the government’s SNP task force as a direct result of this policy.

“If that wasn’t already a red flag, then this austere correspondence must be aimed at SNP ministers.

“The Scottish Conservatives will continue to defend the interests of small business.

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

“As they seek to recover from the pandemic, the last thing they need is to be weighed down by even more SNP regulation.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘Regulation of short-term rentals is needed to balance the needs and concerns that residents and communities have raised with broader economic and tourism interests.

“Our licensing proposals were developed through extensive stakeholder engagement and careful consideration of the evidence, including on the impact of short-term rentals on communities.

“The third public consultation on our proposals ended last week and we are now carefully reviewing the responses with a view to making any necessary revisions. We are committed to monitoring and evaluating the impact of our proposals to ensure they remain effective and focused.

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