SLE calls for ‘urgent rethink’ on licensing of short-term lets during COVID recovery

SLE calls for 'urgent rethink' on licensing of short-term lets during COVID recovery

Pursuing a new licensing regime for short-term lets in the midst of the pandemic has the potential to cause further serious damage to the rural economy, Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) has said.

The rural business organisation said it was perplexed by the Scottish Government’s announcement that it was pressing ahead with a licensing regime.

Gavin Mowat, policy advisor (rural communities), said: “We absolutely agree that the safety of people using short-term lets is paramount and communities shouldn’t be forced apart by a lack of adequate long-term housing.

“We are, however, concerned that these proposals don’t target the problem areas, and instead will be applied nationwide, even in areas where short-term lets are essential for the local economy and provide much-needed tourism accommodation.

“After a truncated consultation process in the middle of a pandemic, it is extremely disappointing to see the Scottish Government push ahead with these regulations without taking into account the difficulties we and other organisations have raised.”

He continued: “The total financial impact of COVID-19 restrictions to the self-catering sector alone is over £265m since September 2020. Tourism businesses across rural Scotland have struggled all year and many of them simply do not have the resources or reserves to survive over the winter. Now is not the time to be saddling them with unnecessary burdens.

“SLE members, like so many others across Scotland, have been hit by unprecedented levels of income lost due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The government’s foremost priority should be to help these vital local businesses ride out and recover from difficulties rather than imposing nationwide regulation that is largely only relevant to tourist hotspots such as Edinburgh. This is primarily an urban issue but one where rural voices are not being listened to.

“The clear message from the consultation responses was that new regulation was going to create further pain in the industry. We join with many other organisations in asking the Scottish Government to postpone the implementation of licensing like they have done with the tourism levy.”

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