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Planning (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 (Day 2)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th June 2019.

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Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

I support amendment 156 and oppose amendment 157. I commend Andy Wightman for his thorough work over a number of months and years; he has done detailed work on the legislation and has taken colleagues with him. He has provided opportunities for briefings and has met the industry every step of the way—he has done a serious and thorough job.

Amendment 156 is particularly astute because it is not particularly radical. I urge members to look at the detail. The amendment does not represent a crusade against the industry of Airbnb or equivalent websites. It seeks to curtail the proliferation of commercial lets where we have allowed big companies or wealthy individuals to buy up properties across a city for the sole purpose of putting them on the internet for short-term lets. Such properties are not residential; they are businesses.

Amendment 156 would make no difference to and have no effect whatever on individual citizens who want to rent out their property for a certain number of days or months in the year or who want to rent out a room in the house in which they live. The amendment would simply curtail the proliferation of commercial lets.

I support the amendment for three key reasons, which I will run through quickly. Airbnb is causing misery to countless numbers of my constituents across Edinburgh—particularly those who live down at the Shore, on Leith Walk or off Easter Road, who are represented by Ben Macpherson; those who live in Portobello or Abbeyhill, who are represented by Ash Denham; and those who live in the Grassmarket or the new town, who are represented by Ruth Davidson. All those members will vote for Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 157. There is antisocial behaviour in those areas en masse.

Another reason why it is important to look at amendment 156 in detail is that commercial lets are distorting the property market. When big companies buy up properties, that makes it harder for working people to live in the city. On the internet today, the monthly cost of renting a one-bedroom property in the Grassmarket or on Easter Road is £850. That is pushing people out of the city and beyond its limits, and that is all because people are buying up properties for the purposes that we are voting on today.

There is another reason to support amendment 156. Perhaps the whole point of Airbnb is to provide tourists who come to Edinburgh with the experience of a home and what it is really like to live in the capital city, but all that is lost when the system is commercialised in the way that we have talked about today. I say to Rachael Hamilton that, far from killing off tourism, amendment 156 would provide a sustainable alternative, because it would protect the means by which people can experience what it is like to be in the city as a resident and a citizen.

I believe that amendment 157 is a wrecking amendment. It bulldozes right through the purpose of amendment 156 by introducing control areas and it kicks the can down the road into some grass called “One day, maybe.” There is no scrutiny whatsoever in relation to the size of the control areas, how they would operate and who would decide that. It is far too late. SNP members should be uncomfortable in their seats today in voting with the Tories for amendment 157, but some of them should be more uncomfortable than others: those who represent areas where working people are being pushed out, where families are being priced out of their communities and where communities are being hollowed out by a largely unregulated industry.

Amendment 156 would make a small but important change. I commend Andy Wightman for his work and I hope that the constituents of the members who vote against his amendment hold those members to account at the next opportunity.