A NEW policy requiring all businesses who provide overnight stays to have a licence has been branded as “seriously detrimental” to the tourism sector.

We previously reported that the Scottish Government had announced that all businesses – operating before October 1, 2022 – that offer short-term lets must submit an application for a short-term licence before October 1.

Businesses that do not obtain this licence will not be allowed to accept bookings or welcome guests – this includes those who let spare rooms or sub-let while on holiday.

Murdo Fraser, a Scottish Conservative MSP, raised concerns over the Short-Term Lets (STL) policy in a letter to economy, fair work, and culture secretary Neil Gray.

In his letter, Mr Fraser said that whilst he believes this is nominally a housing issue, he feels the STL’s licensing requirements and other restrictions will have “serious negative impacts on tourism and the wider Scottish economy for years to come”.

He said: “This policy has not just imposed costs on homeowners and curtailed their incomes during a cost-of-living crisis, it endangers the wider Scottish economy by restricting the accommodation available for tourists and those visiting for other reasons.

“Some of the motives behind the plan are well-intentioned, but it has been badly thought out and risks becoming seriously detrimental, particularly for businesses and jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

“It is typical of the SNP government’s refusal to listen to those significant concerns that the minister responsible should have dismissed all suggestions for improving the measures out of hand.

"That shows that they were never serious about ‘resetting their relationship with business’.

“I’ve written to Neil Gray to point out this policy affects much more than housing and will have negative impacts on tourism and the wider Scottish economy for years to come.

“He and his ministerial colleagues must engage with those affected as a matter of urgency, and amend their plans.”

The Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC) claims that estimates by the economic consultants Biggar show that the STL policy could cost £133 million and more than 7,000 jobs.

A survey, conducted by the ASSC, found that around 61 per cent of the 1,200 small accommodation providers who responded said that they were considering leaving the sector within the next year.

Mr Fraser also added that he feels various factors including expense, bureaucracy, the significant backlog in licensing applications, and the impact on tourism will result in a reduced number of places for visitors to stay and a significant loss of income for Scots, particularly in rural areas.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local councils’ licensing schemes are in operation across Scotland and many short-term let hosts have already obtained licences.

"Visitors coming to Scotland can already expect to see the benefits of properties being licensed and required to meet specific standards.

"Meanwhile, short-term lets operators who provide a quality service can have the assurance that would-be competitors have to meet licensing standards as well.

“The focus of our licensing scheme is a mandatory set of safety standards that apply to all short-term lets, which many hosts will already be meeting as a matter of best practice or compliance with existing law.

"Our scheme also gives local authorities the powers to strike a balance between the economic and tourism benefits of short-term lets by addressing community concerns around making sure short-term lets are managed appropriately by operators.

“We would encourage hosts considering letting or those already operating to contact the council where their accommodation is located to obtain more information about how to apply.”