Short-term Lets (Licensing)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd September 2021.

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Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its position regarding short-term lets licensing. (S6O-00196)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Regulation of short-term lets is vital to balancing the needs and concerns that people and communities have raised with the Scottish Government, elected members and local authorities with wider economic and tourism interests.

Over the summer, we held a consultation on the legislation and the business and regulatory impact assessment. We are now reviewing the responses to make sure that we get that important legislation absolutely right. We have informed the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee that we will lay the licensing order in November. By allowing local authorities appropriate regulatory powers through a licensing scheme, we can ensure that short-term lets are safe and address issues that local residents and communities face.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

Given the contentious nature of the licensing scheme and the Scottish Government’s failure to adequately work with the self-catering sector to resolve the issues that arise, particularly with regard to rural businesses, can the minister set out how the Scottish Government or local authorities will compensate businesses—including many in rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway—whose livelihoods could be taken away due to a short-term licence being refused on the ground of overcapacity?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I do not accept Finlay Carson’s contention, as I believe that efforts have been made to work with the sector. Indeed, I met representatives from Airbnb and the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers just a few weeks ago and I have committed to continuing to work with them.

I do not believe that those responsibilities are onerous. The BRIA sets out clearly that the licensing fee will not be onerous and that local authorities can recoup only the cost of providing their licensing system. In addition, local authorities’ powers will be very important in addressing issues of local concern, which I hope Finlay Carson will also listen to, because it is important that we hear local concerns. The legislation is aimed at giving local authorities the powers to use, but they do not have to use them. I hope that Finlay Carson appreciates that local authorities should have the powers to address issues of concern within their areas.

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the devastating impact on housing stock in certain areas of the Highlands and Islands due to the high density of short-term lets needs to be urgently addressed?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

We know that, in certain communities, particularly tourist hotspots, high numbers of short-term lets can reduce the number of available properties and make it harder for people who work in the area to find homes to live in—a matter that I hope is of concern to members across the chamber. That is why we are taking action on short-term lets. We consider that the regulation of short-term lets—including legislation that allows councils to establish short-term let control areas, which came into force in April—and our proposals to license short-term lets will strike the necessary balance between the concerns that communities have raised and the wider economic and tourism interests.

We are also increasing the number of affordable homes. We are proud of having delivered more than 103,000 affordable homes since 2007, and we have committed to delivering 110,000 more by 2032.

Emma Roddick will note that Highland Council proposes to use a short-term let control order for the Badenoch and Strathspey area.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

I am keen to use control areas for the east neuk of Fife to protect full-time residents and workers, and I am concerned that the argument over the licensing scheme might be holding that up. I am interested in the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers’ idea of having a registration scheme, which I know the Government is against. Will the cabinet secretary reconsider its opposition to that, so that we can get cracking on implementing the control areas?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Let me repeat: councils have had the power to establish short-term let control areas. The legislation for that came into force in April this year. City of Edinburgh Council is already looking at making the whole of Edinburgh a control area, and, as I said, Highland Council is looking at establishing a control area for Badenoch and Strathspey. It might be good for Willie Rennie and Fife Council to discuss the east neuk as well. It is a particular power that will be used by local authorities in the areas in which they decide to use it, in consultation with local people and, of course, ministers.

The idea of having a registration scheme has been discussed at length, and we do not believe that it would give the same protections, particularly given the need to have common safety standards across all short-term lets in Scotland. That is why we are bringing in a licensing scheme. We will make sure that it works for communities and that it will not be onerous for those who provide short-term lets.