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Farm union welcomes withdrawal of legislation on short-term lets licensing scheme

By Alan Hendry

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NFU Scotland's Robin Traquair said the 'rushed proposals' could not have come at a worse time.
NFU Scotland's Robin Traquair said the 'rushed proposals' could not have come at a worse time.

Farm union leaders have welcomed an announcement that "ill-thought-out" legislation for a short-term lets licensing scheme has been withdrawn from the Scottish Parliament to allow for draft guidance to be developed.

The proposals would have introduced a new requirement for licensing of bed-and-breakfasts and self-catering and potentially the need to gain planning permission.

A cross-sector response, including input from NFU Scotland, had highlighted serious concerns over the "rushed" nature of the proposals, what was seen as a lack of information and the impact on many agri-tourism businesses already closed because of Covid-19.

The union has welcomed the statement by housing minister Kevin Stewart that the Scottish Government would withdraw the proposals to allow guidance to be developed with stakeholders.

Union vice-president Robin Traquair said: “Farm diversification into short-term lets such as bed-and-breakfast and self-catering accommodation is a significant source of income for many farms in Scotland.

“They have already been dealt a significant blow by the impact of Covid-19 and these ill-thought-out and rushed proposals could not have come at a worse time.

“There has been a significant widespread stakeholder lobbying effort to raise serious concerns about the proposals and it is gratifying that the minister has listened to the voices of NFU Scotland and others on this issue.

“There will clearly be more work to come on this matter, but farm businesses that operate this kind of accommodation can breathe a sigh of relief that there is now time for more appropriate guidance to be developed to ensure that the issues raised can be discussed in a more detailed and transparent manner.”

Mr Stewart said: “Our proposals to license short-term lets were developed in response to concerns raised by residents in communities across Scotland and members in all parties.

“However, I know concerns have been raised, so have therefore decided to withdraw this legislation so that it can be reconsidered in parallel with draft guidance which will help address those concerns.

"I want the licensing scheme to be as efficient and effective as possible in ensuring the safety of guests and residents, and to provide local authorities with the powers to balance community concerns with wider economic and tourism interests.

“I want to emphasise that our proposals and overall timetable remain the same. Safety of those using short-term lets is vital and our proposals ensure that all short-term lets across Scotland adhere to a common set of safety standards as well as allowing local authorities to tackle issues such as antisocial behaviour.

“This government’s intention, therefore, subject to the outcome of the election, is to re-lay this legislation in June alongside the published draft guidance. If it is passed, local authorities will still have until April 1, 2022, to establish a scheme tailored to their local needs and existing hosts will have until April 1, 2023, to apply.”

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