The Scottish Government plans to regulate "short term lets" by means of a licensing scheme that will also affect all small B&Bs (those in Use Class 9, ie "homes").
The Local Government and Communities Committee are discussing this tomorrow (Wed 3 Feb).
This is the message the Scottish B&B Association have sent today to the Convener of the Committee, James Dornan MSP:
Many read this as excluding (a) licensed hotels and (b) B&Bs. I have to say that many MSPs and even ministers have expressed surprise that B&Bs were ever intended to be included. As soon as we heard that one of the options was to include B&Bs in UCO 9, we flagged this up as a problem issue in our formal consultation rsponse at the earliest stage possible.
5. "Average indicative fees are estimated to be in the range £223 and £377 for a three year licence”:
These figures are misleading, as there is NOTHING guaranteeing they will be in this range - and in fact there will be a equirement for Local Authorities to cover their costs, so depending on what Local Authorities choose to spend, and how many license fee payers are in their area, the fees may be much higher.
As you will know by now, the ASSC’s very recent survey (also sent to our members) of B&Bs across Scotland found the following:
88% are rural / semi-rural / island 78% have been operating 3+ years, with 20% over 15 years, one 37+ years 76% are UCO9 (residential) compared to 24% UCO7 (Guest House), which means that 76% will be required to obtain a licence 39% believe that any additional licence fee would render their business unviable, 55% believe it would have a negative impact
Mr Stewart’s letter also repeats Ms Forbes’s potentially misleading statement to her constituents, saying:
"The Scottish B&B Association responded to both our 2019 and 2020 consultations, highlighting that their members adhered to safety standards and that they were in favour of levelling the playing field between B&Bs and properties listed on platforms such as Airbnb.”
As I said to Kate Forbes when she had used those words to her constituents:
We did give written responses to Scottish Government consultations in July 2019 and October 2020 (the latter a very limited consultation, as a licensing scheme had by then been decided upon). However you omitted the significant fact that both times, we made very clear that a licensing scheme would be the WRONG way to go, and explained why. And in October, we specifically warned of the danger of bringing in B&Bs into the definition of “short-term lets”. Again we were ignored.
Yes we have long been in favour of levelling the playing-field between B&Bs and properties on “platforms” such as Airbnb - and we have made very clear to the Scottish Government (since 2017 when we gave evidence to your Expet Panel on the “Collaborative Economy”) that this “playing field” distortion was a matter of ENFORCEMENT. To put it simply, traditional B&Bs are subject to the enforcement by regulators of health & safety rules, and properties on platforms like Airbnb are in practice not. The way to bring the same level of enforcement to both is to bring in a no or low cost accommodation registration scheme, not an onerous, costly, inflexible and unwieldy licensing scheme.
In any case, seeking written submissions from voluntary trade associations is not sufficient as a consultation excercise before changes of this scope and scale - if your Government had intended every owner of a house (ie UCO 9) in Scotland who offered even one room as B&B to be subject to a licensing regime, it would have been incumbent on you to carry out a near population-level consultation and communications excercise.