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Short-term let properties in Highland will need a licence under Scottish Government rules which are welcomed by MSP Emma Roddick as 'a first step'

By Scott Maclennan

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Emma Roddick MSP: A welcome first step.
Emma Roddick MSP: A welcome first step.

All short-term let properties will require a licence to ensure they are safe and the people providing them are suitable under new legislation just approved by the Scottish Parliament.

Local authorities will be required to establish a short-term lets licensing scheme by October 1 this year and existing hosts and operators will have until April 1, 2023 to apply for a licence.

The legislation was developed to deal with the impact of short-term let properties on their local communities, including noise, antisocial behaviour and the impact on the supply of housing in some areas.

Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick welcomed the new law as a “first step” in addressing the housing crisis in tourist hotspots as she called on Highland Council to go further to shore up local housing stock.

She said further action is needed at a local level to protect housing stock and she would like to see councillors set-up control areas to limit the number of residential properties which can be converted to holiday lets.

Badenoch and Strathspey became the first ward to seek the introduction of a control area last year, meaning that future property owners will need to acquire change of use planning permission to use their property as a short term let.

“The Short-Term Lets Licensing Order is a great first step towards addressing the housing crisis we are facing in the Highlands and Islands,” she said. “But more needs to be done if we are to change the tide on housing so that it is no longer viewed solely as a commodity or capital gain.

“Some areas of the Highlands have seen up to 50 per cent of their housing stock used for short-term letting. If councillors are serious about helping their constituents and ensuring their communities remain viable, they need to take action now.

“Councillors representing any Highland ward facing housing pressures exacerbated by high numbers of short-term lets should make use of this power and implement a control area as soon as possible.”

Ms Roddick previously criticised Highland councillors who are also landlords of short-term lets for failing to declare an interest when voting against regulation.

Councillor Gordon Adam.
Councillor Gordon Adam.

A motion by Liberal Democrat Councilor Gordon Adam was passed at a full council meeting called for the government to adopt a proposed registration scheme instead of licensing.

The move saw the Black Isle councillor referred to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland for taking part in the debate as he owns eight lets marketed as Black Isle Yurts.

That was 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.

However, the intervention did not change the ultimate result and the legislation will now be enacted, which housing secretary Shona Robison said was: “A significant milestone on our path to bringing in an effective system of regulating short-term lets.

“Our licensing scheme will allow local authorities and communities to take action to manage issues more effectively, without unduly curtailing the many benefits of short-term lets to hosts, visitors and the economy.

“We have already introduced legislation allowing councils to establish short-term let control areas and manage numbers of short-term lets.

“This is the next step to delivering a licensing scheme that will ensure short-term lets are safe and that allowing them to continue to make a positive impact on Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies while meeting the needs of local communities.

“This legislation covers the whole of Scotland, including island and rural communities, and offers flexibility to local authorities in how it is implemented based on local needs and concerns.

“We appreciate the input from tourism bodies, local government, community organisations, residents and others in reaching this point.”

Not everyone, though, welcomes the new measures.

Related stories:

Legislation could be damaging for tourist-dependent Ross-shire, says MSP

Licensing proposals come 'at awful time' for many people

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