Fore! Council drives SNP’s chaotic holiday lets policy straight into the rough

  • Defiant officials exploit legal loophole to get round red tape 

A Scottish council has exploited a loophole in the SNP’s chaotic holiday rental licensing policy because it fears an accommodation crisis at one of the country’s top sporting events.

Fife Council, Scotland’s third largest by population, has declared a ‘national event’ ahead of an anticipated influx of 50,000 fans for the Women’s Open golf tournament at St Andrews.

The move enables it to grant ‘temporary exemptions’ allowing properties to be rented out for up to six weeks without people having to obtain one of the SNP’s costly new short-term lets (STL) licences.

Critics, including tourism leaders, said it exposed the farcical nature of the STL scheme and showed the new law was not ‘fit for purpose’.

It’s the latest development in the SNP policy and follows our revelation earlier this month that rental giant Airbnb claimed the rules were driving tourists away from Scotland.

 Golf fans will be flocking to St Andrews where there is an accommodation crisis

World No 3 Celine Boutier will star at Women’s Open

World No 3 Celine Boutier will star at Women’s Open

Around 50,000 people are expected to visit the home of golf for the Women’s Open in late August with top stars such as world No 3 Celine Boutier of France vying for the £7 million prize pot.

A Fife Council report states: ‘There is an anticipated increased need for short-term lets in St Andrews to accommodate these visitors on a temporary basis.’

The local authority’s housing services warned that, without action, there ‘may be insufficient licensed short-term let capacity in St Andrews to address the demand’ and that ‘visitors may be housed unlawfully’.

In a further sign of the red tape which blights the policy, owners must still apply for the ‘temporary exemptions’.

However, they do not need to display a ‘public notice’, meaning there is no right of neighbours to object to a temporary exemption being granted.

The news comes after this paper told how Edinburgh’s famous festivals face a similar accommodation crisis after the STL licensing scheme saw a staggering 90 per cent reduction in rental spots in the city.

A cruise ship, the MS Ambition, formerly used to house Ukrainian refugees in Scotland, has been drafted in to help with accommodation during the city’s International Festival and Fringe.

Stars such as TV presenter Gail Porter and comedian Jason Manford have also expressed their dismay at the soaring cost of renting somewhere to stay during the festivals in August as a result of reduced supply.

The laws, which were introduced last year, make it mandatory for all properties rented out short-term, from a castle to a spare bedroom, to have complicated and costly licences in order to legally operate.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said: ‘This latest news is effectively an acknowledgement from Fife Council that the exemption process for the STL licences is unworkable and isn’t fit for purpose in respect of handling the demand for accommodation for big events.

‘This comes hot on the heels of concerns around the availability of stays in Edinburgh during the festivals. It’s another week and another shambles – and all of this was entirely predictable.’

Ms Campbell added: ‘Industry consistently highlighted the dire consequences that would follow from a draconian approach to short-term let regulation and these forewarnings are becoming glaringly apparent. 

The Scottish Government needs to get a grip of the situation and work with us to put it right.’

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative business and tourism spokesman, said: ‘The SNP Government was warned that their ill-considered tinkering would impose a burden on small businesses and risk serious damage to our vital tourist sector.

‘They refused to listen, but that’s exactly what’s happened.

‘Fife’s suspension of these unnecessary costs and regulations should be the prelude to them being scrapped altogether.’

The Scottish Government said: ‘The STL regulations included the powers to grant temporary exemptions in recognition of the fact large events can result in a significant demand for accommodation over a short period of time. 

Licensing authorities can also attach conditions to temporary exemptions.’