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Sub-heading: North Ayrshire Council backs government plans
By Colin Smeeton
A councillor has warned that Scottish government proposals to introduce licensing for short-term lets and bed and breakfast businesses will have a devastating effect on Arran.
And he argues that the measures will have no effect on improving the chronic shortage of affordable housing on the island – one of the very measures they are intended to address.
Conservative councillor for Arran Timothy Billings raised his concerns at last week’s full North Ayrshire Council meeting but was out-voted on the Scottish government proposals which the council has now backed.
Councillor Billings proposed that a lighter touch registration system would achieve the same results but at less cost to the businesses and would be less onerous for North Ayrshire Council to administer, however, SNP, Labour and independent councillors, agreed to support the government’s new licensing proposals.
Councillor Billings said ‘This is hugely disappointing as these licensing proposals are totally unnecessary and will cost these small businesses a huge amount of time and money.
‘As our tourism industry starts to recover from the Covid shock the last thing it needs is to be hammered with burdensome and costly red tape.
‘The supporters of the government’s licensing proposals seem to be under the delusion that it will in some way help with affordable housing shortages.
‘This is totally not the case as licensing deals with safety and not the control of business numbers.
‘I know that Arran has an affordable housing crisis, but at no point will licensing legislation tackle any housing issues.
‘Licensing is only concerned with safety and possible nuisance – both of which can effectively be addressed using a registration system similar to that used for long-term let landlords.
‘I am hugely worried about these licensing proposals and the harm it will cause to the tourism industry, especially on Arran which I represent.
‘Operators I speak to all are considering stopping offering holiday lets which will not only harm their livelihoods but will also adversely affects other businesses that rely on tourism, such as restaurants, bars and local shops.
‘The government is using a hammer to crack a nut, and has no regard to the damage it will cause to so many small business owners and Scotland’s vital tourism industry.’
Sharing these concerns about licensing laws is Fiona Campbell, chief executive of Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, who said: ‘These licensing regulations could not have come at a worse time for Scotland’s self-caterers, most of whom are still reeling from the devastating impact of the pandemic on our businesses and livelihoods.
‘It remains astonishing that the Scottish Government seems intent on kicking self-caterers while we’re down by imposing these damaging and potentially ruinous regulations on a sector that contributes £867m to the Scottish economy each year, as well as supporting 24,000 FTE jobs.
‘Instead of an onerous licensing scheme with crippling operator fees, the ASSC have put forward a workable and proportionate mandatory registration scheme which has cross-industry and cross-party support.
‘The Scottish government needs to change its course and show that it is on the side of thousands of small businesses across the country by giving them the room and flexibility they need to get back on their feet.’
The introduction of licensing for accommodation providers has been a contentious issue with a number of tourism groups, including Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, Airbnb, Scottish B&B Association, and the UK Short Term Accommodation Association, all resigning from the government’s working group earlier this year, citing its inability to address concerns the industry has raised over proposed new measures and describing the group as not fit for purpose.