Associate Feature: Fight Against Scottish Government’s Onerous Licensing Scheme Continues
As you may have noticed, there was a pretty intensive campaign recently to attempt a Scottish Government rethink on the onerous short-term let licensing scheme which came into force on 1st October 2023. Now that the dust has settled and the scheme has started, the honest truth is that we still don’t have a clear picture as to the damage that the legislation has done to our sector. There are certainly going to be numerous businesses which have had no option but to close down as a result, many already have, but the Scottish Government itself doesn’t know how many STL operators there were, so it will take some time to see how many are left once licence holders are tallied. One thing that we do know is your next holiday in Scotland is going to be more expensive. With a drop in the number of available self-catering holiday homes, fewer guest houses and less bed and breakfasts, demand is going to be higher with less supply so, naturally, it will cost more to stay at your destination. And that is if there is any accommodation at all - in some places the only bed and breakfast has now closed for good. So where does all this leave us?
Our tourism offering was the jewel in our crown, the envy of our European neighbours and a significant contributor to Scotland’s economy. The self-catering market alone was contributing approximately a billion pounds a year in revenue to the country, never mind the revenue from ancillary business such as shops and restaurants that rely on our visitors too. We simply don’t know yet how much damage is going to be inflicted now that the scheme is up and running but our member surveys have been painting a pretty bleak picture. Some of you may ask, why didn’t you take these concerns to Ministers? We did. We have engaged at every step of the way but the Scottish Government just wasn’t listening, turning their backs on businesses the length and breadth of Scotland. The multitude of sub-committees, working groups and direct meetings with Ministers, with the benefit of hindsight, turned out to be no more than talking shops with our words falling on deaf ears. First Minister Humza Yousaf had even promised us a face-to-face meeting but, despite numerous follow ups and reminders, that commitment, made during the heady days of the SNP leadership campaign, was not fulfilled. We can’t help but feel that the Scottish Government has turned its back on the sector, which can not be said of the Scottish Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems who engaged and supported our efforts throughout. The Scottish Government has made much of their efforts to help small businesses but their attitude regarding small businesses in Scotland’s vital tourism sector is the antithesis of what they claim. Any promise of a New Deal for Business has been dashed, whilst livelihoods are being destroyed.
Well what now? Our efforts to reverse this legislation, or at least make it workable, will continue as long as there is still something left to fight for. The sector’s successful efforts to challenge the legality of this legislation in the courts will continue and we will ensure our arguments continue to be heard as the Scottish Government delivers its promise to review this legislation early next year. Obviously we are desperately disappointed that our industry’s voice wasn’t listened to throughout this campaign but we will continue to make our voice heard any time we can. With the promise of a review next year, there is still time to unpick this legislation and improve it so that it works for everyone involved in tourism in this country. Scotland needs a strong tourism offering and self-catering holiday homes, bed and breakfasts and guest houses are very much part of that offering, that is why we will continue to take the fight for our members’ interests to the Scottish Government.
This article is sponsored by ASSC, Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers