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New and controversal short term let licensing rules attacked by opposition MPs and industry bodies

By Lewis McBlane

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A POLITICAL battle is mounting in Moray over new short term letting regulations, which industry groups say will harm rural communities.

Visitors looking to enjoy short term lets in rural areas like Crovie could be hit by new rules.
Visitors looking to enjoy short term lets in rural areas like Crovie could be hit by new rules.

Controversial new rules agreed in Holyrood last Wednesday requires councils to set up licensing schemes for short term lets and holiday accommodation.

All Scottish short term lets will need licensed under the scheme, with local councils having the power to set additional rules above the mandatory safety conditions.

Opposition MPs and industry bodies say the scheme's "urban approach" will force rural business closures.

Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “SNP-Green Ministers have taken a typical they-know-best attitude towards this scheme.

"At every turn they have ignored concerns from struggling small businesses and many rural organisations.

“It was little wonder that many of them quit the SNP Government’s own working group in relation to these regulations.

“As we recover from the pandemic in Moray, this is the last thing our small businesses need, especially given the importance of tourism in our rural communities."

Local authorities will need to set up their licensing schemes by October 1 and existing hosts must apply by April 1 2023.

By July 2024, every short term let in Scotland will need a licence.

A three-year licence could cost £436, said the Scottish Government, but councils can set their own price.

The new rules are trying to curb the growth of lightly regulated short term lets, found on sites like AirBnB.

SNP Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, who voted for the regulations, said: “I know there are many first class short-term let properties across Moray where owners have invested a great deal of time, money and care to ensure their premises provide guests with a good experience and with the best of facilities.

“I also recognise that some hosts are anxious about new regulations.

"However, the consultation process did highlight a range of issues that needed to be addressed, including the impact on local housing supply something we are all too familiar with particularly along the Moray Firth coast.

"Ensuring safety is an important factor underpinning these proposals and many hosts will already be following these high standards.

“I will be speaking with Moray Council in due course to ensure the process locally provides certainty to existing hosts and that licensing fees are proportionate and fair.”

Industry bodies responded furiously to the new rules.

Fiona Campbell, the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterer's chief executive, said; “The ASSC maintain 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."

Scottish Land & Estates Policy Adviser, Simon Ovenden, said: “We’re extremely disappointed that these proposals have been passed by the Scottish Parliament, albeit with some welcome opposition that recognised the damage that this legislation will have on rural businesses."

With enforcement of the rules coming in 2024, debate around this issue and the best approach for rural short term lets will continue to be contentious.

Mr Ross said: “I’ve engaged with, and listened to, the many businesses here in Moray who are totally opposed to this legislation and urged MSPs to vote it down.

“I backed their calls by voting against these plans.

"Sadly Richard Lochhead ignored the overwhelming majority in Moray and voted with his party, rather than standing up for the people and businesses of Moray.

“Once again, the thoughts of our businesses have been an afterthought for SNP-Green Ministers as they’ve ploughed on regardless with this misguided scheme.”

Shona Robison, Scotland's Housing Secretary said: "This is the next step to delivering a licensing scheme that will ensure short-term lets are safe and will allow them to continue to make a positive impact on Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies while meeting the needs of local communities.

“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."

More information about the new short-term let rules can be found here.

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