One size fits all approach not suitable for STL legislation - Miles Briggs

Campaigners protest outside the Holyrood parliament over the Scottish Government's plans to license short-term lets (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)Campaigners protest outside the Holyrood parliament over the Scottish Government's plans to license short-term lets (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Campaigners protest outside the Holyrood parliament over the Scottish Government's plans to license short-term lets (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
​This week at the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Conservatives brought forward an opposition debate calling for short-term lets (STL) legislation to be delayed for a year, to allow for proper implementation of the licensing scheme.

As it stands, the SNP and Green legislation is heading towards disaster, with the legislation set to have a huge impact on Scotland’s tourism industry and economy.

Earlier this month myself and colleagues met with people outside of the Scottish Parliament, many of whom had never protested in their lives before. Law abiding Scottish citizens who have run Bed and Breakfasts and Guest Houses across Scotland or rented out a room to tourists or workers in their homes for years.

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They felt compounded to come to Parliament to try to speak to Ministers and ask them to listen – listen to their very real concerns on how the STL policy has been implemented by local councils and the negative impact this will have on their lives and businesses. I am sad to say they have been ignored by SNP and Green Ministers.

During the passage of the STL legislation at the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee Ministers were warned about the unintended consequences of the wide-ranging reach of the policy, especially around the hard date for registration and implementation. I offered to work with the Cabinet Secretary to try to find a cross-party consensus and workable approach to legislation, regulations, and guidance. Behind the scenes I understand the new Housing Minister did the same.

I welcomed the six-month extension to the policy – and hoped SNP and Green Ministers would use the summer to understand the problems and issues and bring forward workable changes. The ruling that the City of Edinburgh Council’s licensing policy was found to be unlawful on Judicial Review made it especially important that the legislation was looked at again. The decision to link planning systems to licensing systems in councils was always going to be problematic.

STLs have many advantages for some people compared to a hotel, including privacy, affordability and convenience. I fully understand people’s concerns around “party flats” in city centre locations, which can be addressed through the existing planning system. The proposed new licensing scheme will impact the whole STL industry, including stand-alone self-catering units, renting of an individual room in someone’s property, traditional B&Bs, guest houses and even house swaps.

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Ministers were warned that without a significant advertising campaign and the busy summer period individual households and businesses were not going to be able to complete the application process and provide the necessary documentation. For example, Ministers could – and they still could – agree to a new phased introduction beyond October 1.

It is concerning that City of Edinburgh Council say they expect an 80 per cent reduction of STLs in the city. This week’s debate wasn’t about inflicting a defeat on the Government – it was about the Scottish Parliament delivering workable legislation and good Governance. Ministers acknowledging when they have got something wrong isn’t weak – it’s strong. The STL legislation is not going to help solve the housing crisis in Scotland.

SNP Ministers should suspend the regulations now and instigate a review and take forward meaningful engagement to arrive at a proportionate, fair and legally sound legislative framework that works for all.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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