Foreword by Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning
I am pleased to present the Scottish Government’s report into the consultation on proposals for the regulation of short-term lets in Scotland. We received 1,086 responses to this consultation; remarkably, the same number as in the 2019 consultation, despite the foreshortened period of engagement. I am very grateful to all who took the time to attend the consultation workshops (on-line as necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions) and to respond. As I hope this report shows, we have listened to the many and various views expressed and refined and improved our proposals as a result.
Perhaps the greatest number of comments centred on whether to proceed with regulation at this time or to delay it.
I am continuing to press ahead with these proposals now and the secondary legislation will be laid at the Scottish Parliament in December.
This is so that local authorities can make progress in establishing licensing schemes and control areas from April 2021 to address what is a pressing issue for some of our communities. But we have adjusted our proposals so that existing hosts in Scotland can be sure they have until 1 April 2023 to apply for a licence, giving them over two years to get ready.
The licensing scheme sets out mandatory safety standards which many hosts will already be following to comply with existing law or as a matter of best practice. I am keen to see the measures to protect the safety of guests and neighbours rolled out without unnecessary delay. The scheme helps to level the playing field by requiring all short-term let accommodation to meet the same safety standards.
Subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament, the licensing scheme and control area regulations will come into force on 1 April 2021. However, local authorities will have until 1 April 2022 to establish a licensing scheme in their area and open it to receive applications. We are not placing additional requirements on hosts in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In due course, hosts will need to make an application for a licence to their local authority. However, existing hosts will be able to continue operating whilst their licence application is processed.
I am aware, of course, of the impact of the pandemic. Following the consultation, we have removed local authority discretion to set a deadline shorter than one year for existing hosts to make an application for a licence. We did this to help make the scheme easier to understand and enforce for all those working across local authority areas but it also means that existing hosts in Scotland will have until 1 April 2023 to apply for a licence no matter where in Scotland they operate. I very much hope that tourism in Scotland will have recovered strongly from the impact of the pandemic by that point.
We have committed to monitoring and evaluating the impact of our proposals to ensure that they are effective and targeted.
We have considered the representations made by business and tourism stakeholders in the same way as those made by every other sector and interest, including residents. Residents have expressed concern about safety, noise, nuisance, littering, antisocial behaviour, the loss of residential housing stock and the impact on local communities. Although the specific issues and depth of concern varies, there are residents adversely affected by short-term let activity in rural and urban areas across Scotland. This government has always stressed striking the balance between the needs of local communities and wider economic and tourism interests. I believe our proposals do this and there is insufficient reason to delay.