Fears for traditional B&Bs as MSPs set to approve regulations to bring Airbnb-style accommodation under control

Traditional bed-and-breakfasts could be hit by new regulations intended to bring controversial Airbnb-style accommodation under control, politicians and hospitality leaders have warned as MSPs prepare to approve the legislation.
Traditional bed & breakfasts face regulation under the new system intended to control AirbnbsTraditional bed & breakfasts face regulation under the new system intended to control Airbnbs
Traditional bed & breakfasts face regulation under the new system intended to control Airbnbs

The Scottish Parliament is being asked to back new powers for local authorities to license short-term lets and seek the designation of control zones where the number of such properties could be limited.

But Lothian Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour warned B&Bs would be caught up in the new system just as they try to recover from the setbacks of the pandemic.

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He said: “Bed-and-breakfasts, which have run successfully for many years, are suddenly going to find themselves regulated by the council and could end up with restrictions being put on."

The government has laid down that safety standards must be included in the new licensing system but beyond that councils have discretion to add other conditions.

Mr Balfour said: “The council has a lot of power over how these regulations are used and what extra provisions are put in. The track record for this particular SNP-led administration is pretty anti-business.”

He said he feared new rules could affect the number of people coming to Edinburgh and damage the city’s economy.

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“As we come out of lockdown we need to be encouraging people to come and visit Edinburgh not discouraging them.

"Clearly there is concern about the number of Airbnbs in certain parts of Edinburgh and these have to be looked at and regulated.

“But there is a distinction between an Airbnb and a bed-and-breakfast which is a business which has been going for many years. I just worry about how the local authority will use these extra powers if these regulations go through.”

He said the government was already talking about amending the regulations once they were approved. “They haven't got this right. They're trying to push it through before an election. We’re saying let's pause, there's no rush – we're not going to see a massive amount of tourists coming in this next year anyway, so why don't we look at this again and get it right?”

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The call for a rethink was echoed by the Scottish Guest House and B&B Alliance (SGHBBA) which said B&B owners felt they had been misled because they were initially told they would not be included in the new scheme.

Peter Moss, a founder member of the alliance and a B&B owner in Fort William, said the legislation should at least be delayed until after the election.

“Failure of MSPs to take action now would mean that B&Bs will be insidiously included in an ill-thought-out licencing scheme that will have serious unintended consequences on a recovering tourist sector at the very time that Scotland will desperately need to kick-start the economy.

“B&Bs provide localised hospitality within every community across Scotland, whether they are in cities or the Outer Hebrides and are world renowned as being the essence of Scotland. This is one of tourism's most important generators of national income today in Scotland.”

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Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart has claimed B&Bs were always to be included in the regulations and said it was in order to avoid short-term let operators claiming to be a B&B because they provide breakfast boxes.

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