Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy: June 2017

Minutes from the June 2017 meeting of the Scottish Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy.

Attendees and apologies

In Attendance

  • Helen Goulden, Nesta (Chair)
  • Jonathan Coburn, Social Value Lab
  • Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Regulatory Review Group (RRG)
  • Polly Purvis, ScotlandIS
  • John Schmidt, Shepherd & Wedderburn
  • Douglas Shand, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC)
  • Graeme Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)
  • Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland
  • Lorraine King, Scottish Government
  • Corey Reilly, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Jamie Steed, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Louise Sutherland, Scottish Government
  • Richard Walsh, Scottish Government
  • Stuart Black, Highland Council
  • Fiona Campbell, Association of Self Caterers (ASSC)
  • Marc Crothall, Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA)
  • Merilee Karr, UK Short-Term Accommodation Association (STAA)
  • Aileen Lamb, Scottish Enterprise (SE)
  • Willie MacLeod, British Hospitality Association (BHA)
  • Andrew Mitchell, The City of Edinburgh Council
  • Patrick Robinson, Airbnb


  • Andrew Byrne, Uber
  • Claire Mack, Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI)
  • Dr Jamie Coleman, Codebase
  • Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of Regulatory Review Group (RRG)
  • Susan Love, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

Items and actions


The Chair welcomed the group, thanked them for their participation and set out that the panel’s role is to consider and reflect on the information and data presented by stakeholders. The panel has the opportunity to commission research if there are gaps to help inform its judgement. The Chair acknowledged that this is a complex field and the panel would need to give due consideration to the many different types of accommodation and how often they are rented out as well as the varying impacts of short term rental accommodation in different geographies within Scotland. The panel should learn from successes and failures of global examples to ensure a safe, quality experience for visitors with a proportionate regulatory environment which is clear and accessible. Scotland has a varied geographic mix of both urban and rural settings so it is unlikely that there will be a blanket response and targeted local action should be considered.

Minutes of previous meeting and actions

Action 1 – Secretariat to revise the key considerations for the panel within the terms of reference and circulate for comment

Complete – All panel members agreed to sign-off the revised key considerations within the terms of reference.

Action 2 – Secretariat to expand the key considerations report by including a Scottish context section

Complete – All panel members agreed to sign-off revised key considerations report.

Action 3 – SG to explore the possibility of including questions into the digital economy business survey later this year

Complete – It has been agreed that three questions are to be included in the Digital Economy Business Survey.

Action 4 – Panel members to consider what questions should be included in the Digital Economy Business Survey later this year

On-going – The Chair invited suggestions from panel members on potential questions and explained that this is the opportunity to engage with the public.

Action 5 – Secretariat to draft proposal for public engagement

On-going – Secretariat will commission consultancy work to engage the public in the work of the panel. Proposals include a shadow panel which would consist of a series of small panels (12-15 people) to explore the issues or key questions. From these participants, a 'jury' type group could be brought together for a full day, before the final expert panel meeting, to deliberate on the cross-cutting issues raised throughout the process and develop a set of recommendations for the panel.

Action 6 – Secretariat to circulate potential dates [for June meeting] for and members to indicate availability


Indigo House presenting scoping research for short term rentals in Scotland

In early 2017, to help inform the work of the Panel, the Scottish Government commissioned Indigo House to provide scoping research on whether collaborative platforms are effecting Scotland’s housing market in comparison to traditional models. Indigo House’s research methodology included a desk based literature review and using data from AirDNA, a third party analytical website that draws information about Airbnb, which they felt was a fair representation of the platform market. A copy of the scoping research will be published online alongside the minutes. Key points included;

  • the growth of Airbnb in Scotland;
  • hot spots – tourism benefits countered by social impacts, such as loss of residential community, noise, waste, and absent landlords;
  • health & safety issues;
  • tax requirements; and
  • global responses to short term rental platforms.

Concerns were noted about the validity of the information from third party sites, such as AirDNA. STAA & Airbnb offered to provide data to help present a clearer picture of the short term rental market in Scotland. It was noted that there is an opportunity to bring together various data sources to identify collaborative economy trends and activity.

New action 1- Panel to request data from STAA & Airbnb which can be overset on available data sources e.g. Indigo House report

STAA and ASSC have both developed codes of practice and following the meeting are going to discuss how these can be aligned.

New action 2 - STAA and ASSC to align their codes of practice and share with the panel

Stakeholder evidence sessions

The Chair invited stakeholders to present their responses to six key questions which the stakeholders were provided with in advance. To ensure an open and transparent process these will be published online alongside the minutes. The following organisations presented to the panel;

  • British Hospitality Association;
  • Association of Scotland’s Self-caterers;
  • Scottish Tourism Alliance;
  • Scottish Enterprise;
  • Highland Council;
  • Edinburgh Council;
  • Airbnb; and
  • UK Short-Term Accommodation Association.

Federation of Small Businesses were unable to attend the evidence session – however, they had submitted information in advance.

Follow-up questions from panel to stakeholders

The Chair invited follow-up questions from panel members. The term “a level playing field” featured a number of times during the presentations. However, it was highlighted that there was a range of similarities and differences within the short term rental sector and that it would not make sense for all forms of accommodation to be treated the same. The differences between a host that occasionally rents out a spare room and a hotel at the opposite end of the spectrum were noted. However, there was unilateral agreement that consumer safety was paramount and that there should be transparency to regulation that is consistent to the type of property and how it is used, regardless of whether it is booked over the internet.

There was discussion around the opportunities the collaborative economy presents to Scotland and how these can be realised. To achieve Scotland’s potential, digital capacity and skill levels need to be raised. Short term rentals are helping to extend the traditional tourism seasons with spin off benefits for local business helping them expand their service offerings e.g. gin distilleries opening visitor centres. In addition, it provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to identify supply gaps in the market and fill them creating further local economic benefits. There is an opportunity for the tourism sector to grow the market by spreading the capacity throughout the year and country. This could balance the demand for increased accommodation by taking pressure off hot spots and support local communities to have year-long sustainable tourist revenues. Providing personalised unique experiences is a growing trend and is not just the millennial generation that are looking for these experiences in Scotland with the over 50 generation being highlighted too.

Consideration was given to the role of self-regulation and how it could complement existing regulatory frameworks, codes of practices and mediation schemes. It can be a good way to test issues and identify areas of good practice. From a local authority perspective, it was said that they would support this as it could provide early resolution and allow them to focus efforts on the minority that are not complying with existing regulatory frameworks.

The effects of short term rentals on housing stock was discussed. However, it noted that the problem is much bigger than this and has been inexistence for a long time with various factors cited, such as insufficient funding for affordable housing and the rising cost of mortgages. It was noted that 41 per cent of Airbnb hosts in Scotland use the additional income to supplement their incomes.

The Chair invited final comments from stakeholders these included;

  • consumer demands and behaviours are changing and driving the market. Inward investment in Scotland is showing trends towards the short term rental market, e.g. serviced apartments/apart hotels rather than traditional accommodation;
  • Scotland needs to ensure that it maintains its reputation as high quality destination and ensuring protection for all parties is key to this; and
  • peer to peer accommodation/collaborative economy is an important part of the economy - it is here to stay and will continue to grow. However there needs to be means to take action on the small minority that cause issues through non-compliance of regulations and give due consideration to the impact on particular ‘hot spots’ of activity

The Chair thanked the stakeholders that joined the panel and for their contributions and asked them to excuse themselves so that the panel could discuss their findings.

Panel debate

The panel noted that the key themes emerging were around safety and reputational risks. They deliberated the threshold classifications between occasional provider and professional business. Due to constrained budgets for local authorities, innovative methods of ensuring compliance with relevant health and safety standards should be considered. The panel welcomed the idea of approaching SkyScanner and TripAdvisor to see what they are doing and for them to bring their expertise and knowledge. The Chair discussed with the panel about how best to draw on their areas of expertise when planning and developing sessions or to access data they hold that would help provide additional evidence for the panel. All members were fully supportive of using key contacts or requesting additional information.

New action 3 – VisitScotland to arrange a meeting with SkyScanner and TripAdvisor

Final round up and date and time of next meeting

The Chair rounded up the meeting by referring to the publishing of the minutes and papers which will be published on the Scottish Government website one month in arrears to ensure an open and transparent process. To aide this, the Scottish Government will host a guest blog from the Chair to keep an on-going dialogue of the panel’s work.

New action 4 – Chair to draft a blog and circulate to members for comments before publishing on SG website

The Chair thanked everyone for attending and for their contributions and looked forward to seeing them next month at the next evidence session which is focusing on workers, rights & peer to peer transportation and logistics. It will be held in Scottish Government building, St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh on Wednesday 26 July between 12 – 4pm.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000

Post: Scottish Government
Consumer and Competition Policy Unit
3rd Floor
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
G2 8LU

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