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Highland Council urges Scottish Government to ditch planned licensing scheme for self-catering properties

By Scott Maclennan

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Councillor Gordon Adam.
Councillor Gordon Adam.

A motion led by Black Isle member Gordon Adam calls for the government to adopt a proposed registration scheme instead, branding the government's licensing plan "not appropriate for the Highlands”.

The vote to back proposals from the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), however, was close, with the motion passing by 20 votes to 18 and Black Isle councillor Gordon Adam has found himself referred to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland for taking part in the debate.

Cllr Adam insisted on his right to lead the motion despite the council’s head of corporate governance, Stewart Fraser, asking members before discussions began to consider their position if they have an interest in short-term let premises.

Cllr Adam owns eight lets marketed as Black Isle Yurts but insisted that, as his ownership will cease before next summer – when the proposed legislation would come into force – he was comfortable about speaking out.

He attacked the proposed licensing scheme as he said it would leave many proprietors at the mercy of “vexatious neighbours” complaining about the sounds of children playing, smell of cooking “or any other nimby complaints.”

He said of the government proposals: “What will result is a licensing scheme that will result in far more bureaucracy, additional costs and significant uncertainty for the 10,000 or so B&Bs and short-term letters in the Highlands.”

While there have been calls for action over claims people buying properties for letting purposes are pricing locals out of the Highland property market Cllr Adam said the legislation proposed by the government was to do with the health and safety around ownership of such properties and would do nothing to fix any housing shortage.

His participation in the debate was opposed by Dingwall and Seaforth member Alister Mackinnon who said that the fact Cllr Adam currently had “a direct financial interest” in a tourism business meant he was in breach of the council’s standing orders by taking part.

“Other members in the same situation have declared a financial interest today and I do accept it a personal matter that they do so, but I am objecting to his intervention in this motion,” he said.

It was later confirmed that Cllr Adam had been referred to the ethical standards commissioner over the matter.

The council’s stance on the proposed licensing scheme for short-term lets was welcomed by business organisations.

ASSC chief executive, Fiona Campbell, said: “Self-catering properties in the Highlands offer some of the best holiday experiences in the country and it’s great to know that local government in the area supports us in what we do.”

Scottish Land and Estates policy adviser Simon Ovenden added: “We are happy to see a practical and proportionate response from Highland Council.”

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