Is Edinburgh’s festival set to be pushed to the Fringes? - Miles Briggs

As we enter the halfway point of the busiest time of Edinburgh’s year it is easy to reflect on the short-term lets legislation and the impact it might have on the festival next year.
Miles Briggs MSPMiles Briggs MSP
Miles Briggs MSP

The festival was often a time of concern for Edinburgh’s residents given the population boom, but the landscape could look very different if the government fails to heed warnings from the business sector.

Homeowners who rent out their accommodation are being forced to go through a complex and expensive licensing process.

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When the final version of the scheme was brought to Parliament, it was only the Scottish Conservatives that expressed concern, and it is disappointing that legislation was approved.

A view across the city of Edinburgh, as a licensing scheme aimed at short-term let properties in Scotland has openedA view across the city of Edinburgh, as a licensing scheme aimed at short-term let properties in Scotland has opened
A view across the city of Edinburgh, as a licensing scheme aimed at short-term let properties in Scotland has opened

In the aftermath of Covid and the economic crisis that has followed, the people of Edinburgh do not need more red tape. It is harming businesses in the city and damaging the tourist industry, which is essential to the city. Those dealing with this are usually small-scale businesses who are already struggling with a cost-of-living crisis and will struggle to be as financially robust as larger businesses.

The concerns and policy recommendations raised by the industry have been completely disregarded by the Scottish Government, which is failing in its proclaimed support for business in Scotland.

The Association of Scottish Self Caterers (ASSC) conducted a recent industry survey of 1270 businesses which revealed that, as of August 9, with just 37 working days until 30th September, 61 per cent have not applied for a STL licence. Many of those who rented out accommodation say that it is not financially viable to continue and analysis by the ASSC suggests the scheme could cost the economy £133 million.

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These figures are an alarming indication of how much damage this legislation is doing to businesses and residents alike in Edinburgh and across Scotland. The people visiting Scotland make a valuable economic contribution, whether that be for business or leisure, but this is being ignored by a government that is too ideological and intransigent to listen to the concerns of those most affected by this.

This is a demonstration of the completely unnecessary pain inflicted upon the Scottish business sector by the Scottish government, which from the beginning of October is set to be at a massive competitive disadvantage compared to the rest of the United Kingdom.

One of the chief benefits of short-term accommodation is that they provide excellent value for money when compared with hotels. They offer a great opportunity for leisure and work outside of the confines of a bedroom, and they are comparatively inexpensive for parking and breakfast. With over 60 per cent of businesses having yet to apply, the end result will mean that a tourist’s next visit to Edinburgh will simply be more expensive as more and more homeowners simply remove their properties from the market.

The SNP’s anti-business marriage to the Greens is no longer the stuff of nightmares, but of reality. And with Ian Blackford’s announcement that this marriage from hell will last until 2026, the future of Edinburgh business and tourism looks bleak.

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Government Ministers must heed the advice of small businesses and the Scottish Conservatives and suspend the implementation of this disastrous legislation before any further harm is done and we see Edinburgh’s festival move to the fringe of its sector.

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