Publication - Minutes

Short Term Lets Working Group papers and minutes: May 2021

Published: 14 Jun 2021
Date of meeting: 13 May 2021

Minutes of the Short Term Lets: Guidance and Implementation Stakeholder Working Group meeting held in May 2021

Published:
14 Jun 2021
Short Term Lets Working Group papers and minutes: May 2021

Attendees and apologies

Stakeholders present:

Name

Organisation

Marie Lorimer

Airbnb

Fiona Campbell

Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers

Chris McKee

City of Edinburgh Council

Ailsa Raeburn

Community Land Scotland

Wayne Mackay

Electrical Safety First

Jean-Philippe Monod

Expedia

Jo Millar

Gilson Gray

David Littlejohn

Heads of Planning Scotland (Perth & Kinross Council)

Sarah Farnham

Ketchum – representing Booking.com

Gillian Mawdsley (sub)

Law Society of Scotland, Planning Law Sub-committee

Hazel Stevenson*

Local Authority Environmental Health Officers

Kirsten Henderson

PLACE

Claire MacKenzie (sub)

Police Scotland

Gavin Percy

Quality in Tourism

David Weston

Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association

James Clark

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Gavin Mowat

Scottish Land & Estates

Marc Crothall*

Scottish Tourism Alliance

Gary Munro

SOLAR Scotland (Scottish Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators) (Fife Council)

Kimberley Langley

SOLAR Scotland (Fife Council)

Leon Thompson

UK Hospitality Scotland

Matthew Niblett

UK STAA

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

VisitScotland

*Part of meeting only

Scottish Government officials:

  • Andrew Mott (AM) – More Homes (chair)
  • David Manderson (DM) – More Homes
  • Rachael Gearie (RaG) – More Homes
  • David Reekie (DR) – Planning and Architecture
  • Judith Young (JY) – Tourism and Major Events
  • Linzie Liddell (LL) – Tourism and Major Events

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Apologies had been received from Ryan Pearson, Trevor Moffat, Russel Griggs and Laura Caven.  Apologies had also been received from Geoff Smith and Alistair McKie, with Claire MacKenzie and Gillian Mawdsley attending in their place.

AM welcomed Leon Thompson in his new capacity; he had taken over at UK Hospitality Scotland from Willie Macleod.  AM welcomed Gavin Percy from Quality in Tourism, taking over from Deborah Heather on this group.

AM welcomed Kirsten Henderson from PLACE Edinburgh and Ailsa Raeburn from Community Land Scotland; both had been invited to join the stakeholder working group after the second meeting to cover urban and rural interests respectively.  Everyone attending residents’ meetings in March were unanimous in wanting residents represented on the working group.  We considered this to be a reasonable request, especially as the working group was now considering possible changes to the legislation.

Hazel Stevenson (HS) was only able to attend for the first half of the meeting.  Marc Crothall joined for the second half of the meeting.

New Scottish Government

AM noted that we were on a tight timeline to deliver the revised Licensing Order and draft guidance for June, under the instructions of the previous government.  As the new Parliament was broadly similar in composition to the previous one, there was no reason at this time to deviate from these instructions.  Of course, once new Ministers were appointed, they could consider and respond to any stakeholder correspondence and suggestions.

AM noted that once new Ministers had been appointed, we would be advising them of progress and would make sure that the views of the stakeholder working group were communicated to them.

Minutes and actions

It was noted that the second meeting on 17 March 2021 had been published.

With regard to the actions from that meeting:

Action 2.01: GMo to feed in information to the group from wider rural interests.

Complete – SLE’s response on 16 April was based on engagement with NFUS and others

Action 2.02: ML to provide more information on behalf of Airbnb to inform the economic impact assessment.

Complete - ML had provided a copy of the BiGGAR economics report on economic impact of Airbnb in Scotland of October 2020.

Action 2.03: DW to share the response to his FOI request to Food Standards Scotland with the group.

Open – David to forward a copy of the response to AM.

Action 2.04: AM to consider group feedback on the structure of the guidance in terms of sharing a draft for May.

Complete – see papers 1 and 3.

Action 2.05: LC and TC to work with local authorities and their representative bodies to submit a contribution to the guidance and any changes to the Licensing Order.

Complete – a meeting was held in April.

Action 2.06: All group members to submit contributions to the guidance and any proposed changes to the Licensing Order to Scottish Government by close Friday 16 April 2021.

Complete – comments were received from many group members.

 

Draft licensing guidance for hosts and operators (Paper 1)

AM introduced paper 1 circulated in advance, and confirmed that licensing guidance for local authorities and platforms was now contained in a separate document, and would be sent to working group members on 19 May.  AM apologised that this guidance had been delayed but thanked members for their contributions which were being worked through.

AM invited attendees to share any comments on the licensing guidance for hosts and operators, noting that it would be helpful to receive specific comments tracked into the guidance documents following the meeting.

Action 3.01: All group members to submit comments on the draft guidance by close Tuesday 25 May 2021.

Chris McKee (CM) had circulated the guidance to service colleagues for comment.  CM noted that the guidance set out that the licensing board would deal with objections, whereas the approach CEC took was that the licensing board tended to deal with alcohol licensing applications (under the 2005 Act) and that applications for 1982 Act functions were dealt with through a licensing sub-committee.

HS , Gary Munro (GMu) and Kimberley Langley (KL) had no comments at this stage, and were awaiting contributions from colleagues prior to feeding these back to Scottish Government.

Marie Lorimer (ML) noted that Airbnb were still considering some of the detail of the guidance for hosts, and looked forward to seeing licensing guidance for authorities and platforms.  Airbnb’s aspiration was that guidance would allow hosts to understand their obligations in a way that was simple for them, and offered to work with SG to streamline the guidance.  ML highlighted her concern that where a host potentially required planning permission and a licence, they would need to read around 90 pages of guidance.  This was too complicated.  AM advised that, at this stage, SG wanted to get the content right.  Draft guidance would be laid with the SSI in June, and SG intended to work over the summer with stakeholders to get the design of the document right.  ML offered a separate conversation with SG, based on Airbnb’s experiences worldwide, to provide examples of approaches and working with other governments.  AM welcomed this.

Gillian Mawdsley (GM) flagged that governance and review processes needed to be clear, and suggested that perhaps a working group could be set up to meet twice a year to review the guidance.  GM also suggested that an executive note may help make things easier for hosts to digest, rather than having to read through 90 pages of guidance.  GM felt the glossary may be better suited at the front of the document. 

Jo Millar (JM) suggested locating the glossary at the end of the guidance document may work better, so that hosts could quickly find what they need. JM noted that document was long at 90 pages, but felt that if it was laid out well, and easy for people to locate relevant material, the length was less of a concern.

Gavin Mowat (GMo) was keen that layout and accessibility of document was appropriate, and considered that this draft had made a good start.  AM noted that there was a balance between providing more information to cover the more unusual cases (e.g. unusual forms of accommodation) and providing less to make it short and snappy for the more straightforward cases.

David Weston (DW) felt that changes to the SSI should be considered prior to developing guidance, as small changes to the SSI could have a significant impact on guidance.  DW noted his involvement in preparing the 2008 fire safety guidance: Do you have paying guests? which involved streamlining it to be user friendly. DW offered to help SG with the design and layout of the guidance.

Claire MacKenzie asked whether the licensing application process followed the standard 1982 Act process, where police could comment on applications.  AM confirmed this was the case.

Wayne Mackay noted that ESF were content with how the electrical element of the mandatory conditions was set out in guidance, and ESF’s technical team were currently reviewing the guidance.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy had no specific comments on guidance at this stage.   However, he noted that Visit Scotland had databases of existing B&B premises and had experience of visiting self-catering and B&B businesses.

Kirsten Henderson (KH) commented that the papers were long but they were readable.  KH suggested speaking to cities like Paris and Barcelona would be beneficial based on their experience of regulating short-term lets.  KH highlighted that most residents were supportive of lawful and responsible short-term lets as part of responsible and sustainable tourism.  KH advised that there was a sense amongst city residents that large numbers of short-term lets were affecting the availability of housing for residents.

KH offered the following specific comments:

Transitional arrangements should not inadvertently imply that people can operate unlawfully prior to being required to apply for a licence (i.e. with respect to planning rules).  KH noted that around 97% of appeals failed where planning permission had been refused for flatted dwellings to operate as short-term lets.

KH had concerns about the framing of some additional conditions which might be unrealistic for some accommodation, for example around the use of outdoor areas.  It was important that guests paying to use lawful short-term let accommodation could enjoy it as they mig ht expect to do so.

KH was supportive of efforts to encourage hosts and operators to engage with neighbours but neighbours should not feel coerced into not using their right to object.

Matthew Niblett (MN) preferred a shorter document.  MN agreed with an earlier comment that making the document more interactive would help in this regard.

David Littlejohn (DL) felt the licensing guidance was well written and clear, but long.  He suggested that good design, use of colour and flow diagrams etc. would help.

Sarah Farnham looked forward to receiving guidance for platforms and local authorities, and would provide comments on both documents in due course.

Possible revisions to the Licensing Order (Paper 2)

AM introduced paper 2 circulated in advance, which outlined revision which had been suggested by working group members and stakeholders.  AM thanked members for their carefully considered suggested amendments to the Licensing Order.

Fiona Campbell (FC) explained the content of her paper 4 on the ASSC’s proposals to introduce a registration scheme which would operate in parallel with the licensing scheme but exempt registered hosts and operators from having to obtain a licence.  FC had also provided SG with a second paper on how the registration scheme could be enacted, through the Development of Tourism Act 1969.  FC advised that her proposed approach required the same basic safety standards for registration as for licensing.  FC reiterated that ASSC supported the basic safety element of the licensing scheme.

The ASSC proposal was to introduce a registration system that complimented licensing, and be administered by a tourism body, such as Visit Scotland.  AM noted that the ASSC proposal either did or did not provide the same protections as licensing.  If it did, then it could not be less onerous unless there was an assumption that Visit Scotland would be much more efficient than licensing authorities.  If it did not, then this did not deliver Ministers’ policy intentions.

FC suggested that a registration fee would be around £100 compared to around £1,500 conjectured by some for licensing.  AM noted that licensing authorities were experienced in delivering licensing schemes and would be surprised if there was a better value way of providing the same assurance.

ML, JM, GMo and MN expressed support for FC’s proposal for a registration scheme.  JM considered that the Scottish Government’s national landlord registration scheme worked well for the PRS.  David Weston also expressed support, noting consensus across SBBA, Airbnb and ASSC.

Ailsa Raeburn (AR) noted that, whilst many of Community Land Scotland’s members ran short-term lets and saw them as making a positive contribution to their local area, they would not support registration as an opt-out from licensing.  AR was concerned that it would not be enforceable and would not provide mechanisms to tackle antisocial behaviour or overprovision, for example.  AR highlighted that a number of communities in rural and island areas were facing real challenges in terms of the availability of affordable homes for local people.

Jean-Philippe Monod (JPM) also supported the ASSC proposal.  JPM advised that  European registration schemes worked better than licensing schemes.  He noted that the registration scheme in Portugal was very close to having all properties registered.  He expressed a preference for a centralised, national system.  JPM recommended Netherlands and Greece as good examples to review – Greece had just introduced a nationwide registration system. 

AM was keen to see any evidence in respect of short-term let licensing schemes operating elsewhere and failing to be effective.  Action 3.03 JPM to share any evidence on deficiencies with licensing schemes in other parts of the world.

FC noted offered to share examples of registration schemes in Portugal and on the Isle of Man.  Action 3.04 FC to share examples of registration schemes in Portugal and on the Isle of Man.  

FC noted the European Commission were due to publish a study on the differences between registration and licensing imminently.

Gavin Percy (GP) indicated QIT could support registration, given that unregulated properties would still require to be licensed.  GP noted that QIT undertook accreditation for properties on the Isle of Man, and that QIT systems could adapt to meet need of licensing, registration or a hybrid approach, and serve the needs of hosts or local authorities.

Leon Thompson (LT) expressed support for the Licensing Order and a level playing field across all hospitality; hosts and operators needed to understand their responsibilities.  He asked about potential changes to previously excluded accommodation in the Licensing Order.  AM explained that, with regard to some types of premises, the Licensing Order had attempted to rely on meanings in the Use Classes Order but this had not been sufficiently clear.  So this drafting was being revised.

Marc Crothall wanted to highlight the contribution the visitor accommodation sector make to the wider tourism economy, especially the demand for self-catering accommodation coming out of lockdown.  The STA would support a scheme that was fair and balanced.

ML wanted to consider potential alternatives to licensing and considered that one reason that some MSPs had concerns about the Licensing Order was because the tourism industry felt it would be detrimental for recovery.  ML stressed that everyone agreed there was a need for some form of regulation, but she considered registration would be more appropriate.

ML stressed the importance of digital first and was concerned that the licensing scheme would be paper-based, given the founding legislation (Civic Government (Scotland) Act was from 1982.

AM recognised the importance of supporting responsible and sustainable tourism, and noted that everyone on the working group was united in this.  Given that the registration proposals also applied the mandatory conditions in the licensing scheme, AM sought clarity on what was considered onerous about the licensing scheme.

DW was concerned about the impact of licence fees, compared with registration fees.  FC considered that the licensing fees quoted in the SG BRIA of £223 - £377 were an underestimate, and that fees might be in the region of £1,500 - £2,000.

AR felt that many short-term let businesses were not so marginal that the costs associated with a licence would put them out of business.

ML highlighted concerns about fees for those doing home sharing or home letting on occasional basis.  For an occasional host, the cost could be significant.

FC considered that existing laws were already in place to address antisocial behaviour issues and manage safety.  AM pointed out that the impetus for regulation came from the fact the current laws were not addressing the issues faced by residents and communities in many places across Scotland.

AM noted that regulation would help bring all hosts and operators up to a consistent basic standard and this meant that all hosts and operators would need to meet the cost of compliance.  AM noted this had some similarities to the approach to driving.  Driver licensing, speed limits, and MoTs were mandatory for all drivers; they were not against motorists, nor were “good” drivers exempt.  AM hoped that the draft guidance for licensing authorities and platforms (to be circulated later) would provide some reassurance on points raised in discussion.

AM thanked the group for their comments, and confirmed that the full range of views expressed would be reflected to incoming Ministers.

Draft planning guidance (Paper 3)

AM introduced paper 3 circulated in advance.

Action 3.2: All group members to submit contributions to the draft planning guidance by close Tuesday 25 April 2021.

DL considered that the guidance for hosts and operators generally read well.  DL also suggested separating the guidance for hosts and operators from that for planning authorities.  Planning guidance was commonly issued in the form of a planning circular.

KH wanted much stronger messaging regarding planning permission in tenements and other properties with communal areas, citing case evidence which demonstrated the negative impact of short-term lets in these types of property on neighbouring amenity and security.  KH proposed that securing planning permission should be a mandatory licence condition for these types of property.

KH also suggested that a shortage of accessible housing should be included as an example indicator of a systemic material planning consideration for a planning authority as part of deciding whether to designate one or more control areas.

AOB

None.

DONM

AM noted the next meeting (Meeting 4) had not been scheduled ahead of laying the SSI in June.  Officials would confirm the next steps with new Ministers and advise the group in due course.

 

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

Published 10 June 2021