Short-term lets licensing legislation withdrawn
The Scottish Government has withdrawn legislation to establish a licensing scheme for short-term lets.
It said it would bring back the plans after the election once draft guidance had been developed.
A working group has been set up to create those guidelines.
The proposals were narrowly backed by Holyrood’s local government committee earlier this month, with SNP and Labour MSPs supporting the scheme.
But concern was expressed at the planned inclusion of B&Bs in the regulations.
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “I know concerns have been raised, so have therefore decided to withdraw this legislation so that it can be reconsidered in parallel with draft guidance which will help address those concerns.
“I want the licensing scheme to be as efficient and effective as possible in ensuring the safety of guests and residents, and to provide local authorities with the powers to balance community concerns with wider economic and tourism interests.”
He confirmed the government’s plan was to stick to the timetable set out in the initial legislation, which would put in place mandatory standards for properties used for short-term letting from 1 April 2023.
Under the scheme, councils would have to ensure each property meets minimum health and safety criteria before a licence is awarded.
There will also be flexibility in the scheme to empower councils to add additional requirements for a licence.
Scottish Labour welcomed the withdrawal of the “not fit for purpose” legislation.
Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said: “Scottish Labour supports the regulation of short-term lets, but the SNP’s proposal, as it stood, risked unjustly penalising our tourism sector and foisting greater responsibilities onto our hard-pressed councils without providing any new support.”
Industry bodies have also welcomed the move. Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers CEO Fiona Campbell said: “The ASSC commits to working constructively with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders through the new working group to ensure that anything that is taken forward in June – whatever the electoral outcome – is measured and proportionate, and also works to support the recovery of Scottish tourism in these challenging times.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives said it would continue to oppose the legislation when it is brought back to parliament, citing concerns about hampering the recovery of the tourism sector from COVID.
Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “Our small business owners are the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy and need to be supported by SNP ministers rather than vilified. Our tourism industry needs to rebuild, rather than be strangled by red tape.
“Threatening to bring back these regulations in a matter of months fails to give the guarantees tourism businesses across rural Scotland have been crying out for in order to allow them to prosper going forward.”