4. Implementation timescales and coronavirus (COVID-19)
4.1. A number of respondents raised the issue of the timing of these proposals and whether the Scottish Government had taken the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector into account. These were frequently tied in with dissatisfaction with the length of the consultation process and the timing of the consultation, see chapter 3.
4.2. Some 60 of the responses from people who were dissatisfied with the consultation referred to COVID-19 in their reasoning. Around a fifth of respondents referred to COVID-19 in their response to questions about the definition and the control area regulations, and around a third in response to the question about the licensing scheme.
4.3. With regard to the timings set out in the consultation paper:
The consultation paper proposed that the Licensing Order and Control Area Regulations came into force on 1 April 2021. The consultation paper set out a staged approach to implementation of the licensing scheme, concluding with all existing short-term let hosts being licensed by 1 April 2024. We were asking local authorities to have licensing schemes open to receive applications by 1 April 2022.
The tourism sector has raised the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. Some local authorities have raised the impact of COVID-19 on their ability to process current licensing scheme applications, never mind an additional scheme.
Some consultees were also concerned about the complexity of 32 different implementation dates across Scotland leading to confusion amongst guests, hosts and platforms and lack of compliance.
Scottish Government response:
Amendment to structure of Licensing Order.
Use of powers under the Control Area Regulations are entirely at local authorities’ discretion, so we see no need to amend the coming into force date for these Regulations.
We do not consider there are sufficient grounds to delay the first milestone (1 April 2022). The rationale for proceeding with a licensing scheme under the 1982 Act was, in part, to take action as quickly as possible to tackle issues for those communities who are suffering. In the worst case scenario, an amending instrument in the next Parliament could be used to push back the implementation date.
However, we now propose to set the three deadlines on the face of the Licensing Order:
- 1 April 2022 – for local authorities to open a licensing scheme;
- 1 April 2023 – for all existing hosts to have made an application for a licence; and
- 1 April 2024 – for all hosts providing short-term let accommodation in Scotland to be licensed.
This has the effect of removing local authority discretion to set earlier deadlines but will make the scheme easier to understand and enforce for all those working across local authority areas. It also has the effect of giving existing hosts in Scotland until 1 April 2023 to apply for a licence.
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