AN URBAN-FOCUSED licensing scheme will lead to many rural tourism businesses closing their doors, Scottish Land and Estates has warned.

The Scottish Parliament has decided that all short-term let properties should come under a licensing system, and has given existing hosts and operators until April 1, 2023, to apply.

Rural organisations have blasted the move as a 'one size fits all approach' that fails to consider the important role short-term letting plays across rural Scotland by providing housing for communities and workers, as well as bringing in vital tourism.

SLaE consistently raised concerns that the licensing order had been shaped with mainly urban businesses in mind and failed to reflect the diversity of rural businesses: “While we understand the need for action in some localised situations, we have constantly warned of the dangers of a one size fits all approach,” said SLaE policy adviser, Simon Ovenden. “This urban-focused licensing order is being imposed on rural Scotland, with evidence suggesting that the excessive bureaucracy and spiralling costs could now lead to many businesses closing, with a knock-on impact to the local communities they serve.

“This is particularly disappointing given the significant difficulty rural businesses have faced during the last two years.”

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Chief Executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, Fiona Campbell, added her concerns: “The ASSC maintains that the Licensing Order remains unfit for purpose, lacks an evidence base and was more often than not based on groundless fears, anecdote and hearsay. The self-catering sector has been used as a convenient scapegoat for wider policy failures by government, especially on housing.

"In contrast, our proposal for a mandatory registration scheme with health and safety provisions had cross-industry and cross-party support and would have provided a robust and legally effective regulatory regime,” she claimed.

“The Scottish Government has confirmed there will be a review of licensing in summer 2023 in so-called ‘hotspot areas’, and while the precise details of this remain unclear, we will be putting forward our views and insight to help protect self-catering and mitigate the worst effects of this damaging legislation.”

But the Scottish Government has defended itsndecision, saying that the legislation was developed in response to concerns raised by residents and communities about the impact of short-term let properties on their local communities, including noise, antisocial behaviour and the impact on the supply of housing in some areas.

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Housing Secretary Shona Robison said: “Our licensing scheme will allow local authorities and communities to take action to manage issues more effectively, without unduly curtailing the many benefits of short-term lets to hosts, visitors and the economy.

“We have already introduced legislation allowing councils to establish short-term let control areas and manage numbers of short-term lets. This is the next step to delivering a licensing scheme that will ensure short-term lets are safe and that allowing them to continue to make a positive impact on Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies while meeting the needs of local communities,” she explained.

“This legislation covers the whole of Scotland, including island and rural communities, and offers flexibility to local authorities in how it is implemented based on local needs and concerns.”

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