Rural accommodation providers are being caught up by “urban centric, ill-judged one-size fits all policies” designed to address city-centre challenges.

That’s the view of the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC) as agritourism businesses who diversified their operations to include an accommodation offering face a raft of regulatory changes.

The organisation points to the cumulative impact of short-term let licensing and planning moves, along with the National Planning Framework 4 and local planning policies which could see rural economies impacted if accommodation providers choose to leave the sector.

ASSC Chief Executive Fiona Campbell and board member of Scottish Agritourism said the organisation, along with NFUS, Scottish Land and Estates and Scottish Agritourism had expressed concern amount the impact of the proposals.

She said: “Our rural and remote communities are paying the price for this disproportionate legislation.

“Local economies will be severely impacted by the closure of these properties, reducing the supply of quality tourism accommodation for no material benefit.

“However, that is not to say there are not housing challenges within Scotland, both in an urban and rural context, but self-catering accommodation should not be used as a convenient scapegoat for addressing housing issues which are much more multifaceted in nature.”

The organisation states that more than 60% of agritourism members offering accommodation such as glamping and self-catering and multiple membership surveys have shown a “tremendous number of rural businesses have expressed profound concerns about both short-term let licensing and planning.”

“The ASSC’s most recent survey highlights that 39% of respondents said that they will be leaving the sector with a further 27% not sure yet” she added.

Ms Campell said the new legislation has “delivered an insurmountable barrier to investment and growth for the agritourism sector in Scotland.

“Outwith Agritourism, operators are already leaving the sector in droves. If action is not taken, we fear even more self-catering operators will quit, jeopardising not only than industry that provides £876 million per annum to the Scottish economy, but it will have major ramifications for the Scottish tourism sector overall.”

The ASSC says the Scottish Government has “two pathways towards a more equitable, fair and effective short-term let regulatory landscape.”

The first is to pivot licensing to align with the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 which it says will satisfy the aims of the regulations, or consider the various amendments to the 1982 Act and re-draft the guidance associated with Licensing Order 2022.

Ms Campbell said the situation can be remedied through genuine and meaningful engagement with the industry “who have highlighted the many unintended consequences of these policies for years but which are now sadly coming to fruition.”

The Scottish Government says it remains committed to engaging with stakeholders about implementation of the scheme.

Housing Minister Paul McLennan said: “Licensing regulation ensures short-term lets comply with consistent safety standards across Scotland.

“It also gives licensing authorities powers to strike a balance between the needs and concerns of local communities and the wider economic and tourism benefits of short-term lets.

“I met recently met with the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers to discuss short-term let licensing. We remain committed to engaging with stakeholders about implementation of the scheme and continue to be responsive in our approach.”

The sector says one of the most pressing current impacts is the fact that anyone opening new accommodation on their farm, even if they already have an operating business and are adding new capacity, cannot take a single booking until they have a licence in place. This is particularly crippling for new entrant businesses who have properties ready to go but who cannot bring in cash to either pay off loans or in some cases finish the project.

Kinclune Estate in Angus is one example where a significant investment is being made converting a traditional large farmhouse, preserving a building in a rural Angus glen. Bookings - even for 2024 - cannot be taken until the whole project is finished. Prior to short term lets legislation, bookings could be taken even if a building was not completed which aided cash flow significantly.