SNP ministers have been forced to delay final plans to crackdown on Airbnb-style short-term lets after officials were flooded with more than 1,000 responses to a consultation including some questioning “the competency of the legislation”.
After having delayed the initial plans to roll out a licensing regime for short-term lets before May’s election, the Scottish Government intended to publish its final proposals this month after making minor changes following another consultation.
But Housing Secretary Shona Robison has confirmed the plans will now not be presented until November after the Scottish Government was inundated with consultation responses highlighting substantial issues.
Despite the new delay, councils will still have until October 2022 to set up a licensing scheme.
Existing hosts and operators must have applied for a licence before April 2023 or face hefty fines – while all short-term lets must be licensed by April 2024.
Ms Robison has stressed that the ambition remains unchanged, ensuring “short-term lets are safe and address issues faced by neighbours, to facilitate licensing authorities in knowing and understanding what is happening in their area and to assist with handling complaints effectively”.
But businesses have warned the plans will hit traders hard as they are still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic and have warned that traditional B&Bs have also been swept up in the legislative proposals.
Business groups had appealed for a less-burdensome registration scheme to be rolled out – but the Scottish Government rejected the proposal.
Ms Robison had anticipated the consultation, which closed last month would merely highlight “minor points for revision”.
She added: “Whilst many of the points raised are familiar from previous consultations, there are some points that require careful consideration, especially if the competency of the legislation is being questioned.
“We also want to take the time to review all the consultation responses carefully to see what we can do to address genuine stakeholder concerns.”
Industry groups have welcomed the delay, hoping that the extra time will allow concerns to be taken into account.
Chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), Fiona Campbell, said: “Scotland’s self-caterers welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s decision to delay putting these regulations before Parliament and the time for consideration and contemplation that doing so will provide.
“Many in our sector, especially those running small businesses, remain deeply concerned about the consequences these measures will have and we sincerely hope that these worries will be seriously taken into account by the Scottish Government.
“If we are to create legislation that works for all, including our £867million a year sector, then we must prioritise these concerns and work together effectively to get every last detail right.”
The Cabinet Secretary has also criticised the Association of Scottish Self-Caterers (ASSC) and other official industry bodies for quitting the Scottish Government’s working group helping to revise the plans – issuing a warning over “misunderstandings”.
Ms Robison said that part of the working group’s remit was to “allay any unfounded concerns and actively explore solutions to any real issues”.
Scottish Conservative tourism and business spokesperson, Jamie Halcro Johnston, said:“SNP ministers need to listen to the concerns of our small businesses who are the lifeblood of our economy. As they seek to recover from the pandemic, it is increasingly clear many simply can’t afford to be hit by yet more SNP regulation.
“They cannot simply continue creating uncertainty and kicking this decision into the long grass every time they talk about it.
“Ministers are now acting like they know best and are utterly dismissive of very genuine concerns. That is no way for a Government to decide policy.
“The Scottish Conservatives will continue to stand up for our tourism businesses and focus on helping them recover, rather than continuing to threaten them with the burden of more red tape.”
Labour MSP Mark Griffin said: “Local authorities urgently need powers to establish short-term lets schemes that empower communities and regulate the sector in areas acutely impacted.
“The delays are deeply disappointing, but not unexpected.
“The SNP has bungled its re-write of these regulations once again and needs to urgently act to ensure a new, fair scheme, that puts local communities at the heart of decision-making.”