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Short term lets legislation withdrawn by Scottish Government

By Gavin Musgrove

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Legislation for a licensing scheme of short term lets (STLs) which had attracted criticism from various quarters in the Highlands has been withdrawn.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP has made the announcement after confirming that a stakeholder working group will continue to consider key issues and solutions.

Following approval from a cross-party committee earlier this month, MSPs had been due to vote on Scottish statutory instruments (SSIs) relating to STLs.

There had been significant concern from B&B owners across the Highlands about a lack of adequate consultation, extra red tape and costs for the scheme that would have been administered by councils especially given the impact of Covid on income.

Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes had raised concern with Housing Minister.
Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes had raised concern with Housing Minister.

Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes, who took their case to Mr Stewart with several letters and meetings, has welcomed that the concerns have been acknowledged and acted upon.

She said: “I recognise that concerns have been raised by many B&Bs and self-catering properties in the Highlands about the impact of this legislation.

"I have listened to those concerns, relayed them to the Housing Minister and I’m pleased that he has acted in this way.

“The stakeholder working group will continue to explore the issues and considering solutions. It’s important that work continues.

“The purpose was to ensure standardised health and safety measures across Scotland which would not have been onerous as most tourism operators already meet such standards.

“However, I recognise that it has been a very difficult year for tourism, and it’s important that we listen to the industry.

"I’m sure the debates about the right balance between housing for local residents and visitor accommodation in the Highlands will continue.”

Shadow Rural Economy and Tourism Spokesman Jamie Halcro Johnston (Scottish Conservative) said he was pleased the Scottish Government had finally responded to the intense lobbying from the tourism sector and the Scottish Conservatives and withdrawn their damaging plans.

But, he said: "I’m disappointed they’re only kicking this issue down the road until after the election.

“Our tourism businesses have been devastated by the pandemic and the last thing they needed is to be burdened by more regulations.

“Our small business owners are the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy and need to be supported by SNP Ministers rather than vilified. Our tourism industry needs to rebuild rather than be strangled by red tape.

“Threatening to bring back these regulations in a matter of months fails to give the guarantees tourism businesses across rural Scotland have been crying out for in order to allow them to prosper going forward.

“The tourism sector is of enormous importance to the economy of the region and I, along with my Scottish Conservative colleagues, will vigorously oppose any attempt by the SNP to resurrect the regulations after the election.”

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