Scotland’s short-term lets policy is leading to letting providers quitting rather than going through the “expense and bureaucracy” of obtaining a licence, the Scottish Conservatives have claimed.
The party’s business, economic growth and tourism spokesman Murdo Fraser has written to wellbeing economy secretary Neil Gray to warn him of the “detrimental” impact of the policy.
The scheme requires hosts of Airbnb-style properties to display energy performance ratings on listings and have adequate buildings and public liability insurance as well as various fire and gas safety precautions.
The deadline was extended from March until the end of October, said to be due to concerns over the cost-of-living crisis.
The aim is to have every relevant property fully licensed by July 2024.
In his letter, Fraser said unintended consequences of the scheme are “causing real difficulties in what is a crucial sector of the tourist economy, with many existing providers opting not to continue with letting due to the expense and bureaucracy involved in applying for a licence”.
He added there are “significant backlogs” to be dealt with by October.
Fraser wrote: “Whilst I understand the policy intent behind this legislation, the impact is likely to be seriously detrimental on our vital tourist sector, meaning that in future visitors to Scotland will have less choice in terms of places to stay.
“Moreover, an important source of income will be lost for many small businesses, particularly in rural areas.”
Fraser highlighted estimates from economic consultants Biggar referenced by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) that the policy could cost £133m and more than 7,000 jobs.
He also highlighted a survey the ASSC conducted which found 61% of some 1,200 small accommodation providers who responded said they are considering leaving the sector in the next year.
Fraser urged Gray to meet with the group, saying it has written to housing minister Paul McLennan with a list of more than a dozen measures to mitigate the policy but all have been rejected.
Commenting on his letter, Fraser said: “Some of the motives behind the plan are well-intentioned, but it has been badly thought out and risks becoming seriously detrimental, particularly for businesses and jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
“It is typical of the SNP government’s refusal to listen to those significant concerns that the minister responsible should have dismissed all suggestions for improving the measures out of hand.”
He added: “I’ve written to Neil Gray to point out this policy affects much more than housing and will have negative impacts on tourism and the wider Scottish economy for years to come.
“He and his ministerial colleagues must engage with those affected as a matter of urgency, and amend their plans.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local councils’ licensing schemes are in operation across Scotland and many short-term let hosts have already obtained licences.
“Visitors coming to Scotland can already expect to see the benefits of properties being licensed and required to meet specific standards.
“Meanwhile, short-term lets operators who provide a quality service can have the assurance that would-be competitors have to meet licensing standards as well.
“The focus of our licensing scheme is a mandatory set of safety standards that apply to all short-term lets, which many hosts will already be meeting as a matter of best practice or compliance with existing law.”
They said the scheme enables councils to “strike a balance” between the economic and tourism benefits of short-term lets.