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Worries remain among Highland bed and breakfast operators on short-term lets law

By Val Sweeney

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Guesthouse operators want to be represented on a working group to look at new legislation.
Guesthouse operators want to be represented on a working group to look at new legislation.

Bed and breakfast operators in Inverness remain concerned after the Scottish Government withdrew legislation aimed at regulating short-term lets.

Ministers had drawn up a licensing scheme to tackle problems caused by the rapid growth of Airbnb-style holiday lets.

But they are now dropping legislative proposals until draft guidance has been drawn up.

A new law will go before parliament in June, subject to the outcome of the May election.

Daniel Mackenzie-Winters, chairman, of Inverness and District B&B Association, welcomed withdrawal of the new legislation but said members remained worried it would still go ahead after the election.

"What we don’t know is whether it will be possible to redraft the legislation that’s already been written so that it will exclude bona fide bed and breakfasts, which is really what we have been asking for," he said.

He said while members supported the need for Airbnb properties to be regulated, they felt the proposals were like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

David Shayer, of Aye Stay guest house in Bishops Road said the government announcement was a relief but also had concerns.

"It appears a short term relief while this has just been delayed until after the elections in May," he said.

"But we hope on the new discussions our interests are listened to and we are better represented."

David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said research showed many Highland tourism and hospitality businesses were struggling because of the pandemic.

"SB Scotland has repeatedly argued that this is not the right time for the Scottish Government to be launching a new licensing scheme – one that could damage many of the country’s businesses and, by extension, our most fragile local economies and communities," he said.

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, recognised it had been a very difficult year for tourism, and said it was important to listen to the industry.

"I’m sure the debates about the right balance between housing for local residents and visitor accommodation in the Highlands will continue," she said.

Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron welcomed the government’s U-turn and said he would commit to voting against the regulations if any party tried to bring them back after the election.

Related story: Action over a surge in holiday lets

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