Scottish B&B sector issues final plea to First Minister over STL licensing

Scottish B&B sector issues final plea to First Minister over STL licensing

The Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association has written to the First Minister Humza Yousaf calling for an intervention to save thousands of small tourism accommodation businesses in Scotland by pausing the introduction of short-term let licensing.

While many associate ‘short-term lets’ with just Airbnb and other major global platforms, the trade body said the actual impact of these plans is far greater, with the legislation hitting small businesses including B&Bs and self-catering units in the pocket.

Meanwhile, aparthotels – typically owned by multi-nationals – are exempt. International hotel chains will also likely benefit from the loss of competition from the removal of indigenous small businesses based in Scotland who are not able to cope with the costly and onerous nature of licensing, the organisation added.

The Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association fears this development will merely cost jobs and push up the price of holidaying in Scotland, while doing nothing to tackle government concerns over housing challenges. The trade body highlights that 61% of B&Bs and small holiday let businesses are considering shutting their doors at the end of September, a move that would be devastating for Scotland’s position as a leading tourist destination.

The letter, written by chairman David Weston, points out that if a significant number of businesses do indeed close, this would be “catastrophic for Scotland’s tourism industry and those who depend on it – hosts, local shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and many more Scottish businesses… Scotland won’t have a tourism industry if the very accommodation needed to welcome international visitors is decimated”.

Despite being congratulated by tourism minister Richard Lochhead, who labelled it a “shining example”, Avril Rennie of 2023 Scottish Hospitality Award winner Carlton Seamill B&B West Kilbride said the legislation was “putting everything I’ve done at risk” and may have to “pack in doing B&B” after 20 years of trading.

With tourism contributing so much to the nation’s economy, and small tourism businesses being an integral part of welcoming thousands of visitors to the Edinburgh Festivals and Fringe, David Weston states their removal would be an incredible “act of self-sabotage”. The body argues that the current regulations risk becoming a massive own goal for Scotland’s international reputation after 1st October unless action is taken right now.

David Weston, chairman of the Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association, commented: “Humza Yousaf inherited this flawed legislation but it is well within his grasp to pause it so to avert a catastrophe in Scottish tourism. We implore him to do the right thing, back small Scottish business and halt the rollout of these regulations until a workable solution is found.

“If even Scotland’s B&B of the Year is contemplating shutting up shop due to licensing, then the Scottish Government must surely realise they have got these regulations badly wrong.

“After the debacle over the deposit return scheme, short-term let licensing risks becoming the next self-inflicted policy disaster unless immediate action is taken to save jobs and livelihoods in one of Scotland’s most important industries.”

Housing minister Paul McLennan said: “Short-term let accommodation plays an important role in Scotland’s economy, supporting our tourism and hospitality sector and allowing tourists and holiday goers somewhere to take them closer to the best Scotland can offer.

“I would like to thank those who have already signed up to the scheme across Scotland bringing assurances to tourists that their safety is paramount and that they have met local guidelines.

“There are less than two months to go until the 1 October deadline and so I would urge anyone who owns short-term let accommodation and has yet to apply to do so as soon as possible to ensure you can still take bookings and welcome guests from far and wide.”

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