I never expected to see it: At Holyrood this week - bed and breakfast owners demonstrating against the Scottish Government!

It’s hard to conceive of a group in society less likely to have become a protest group.  

They are united against the short-term let (STL) regulations due to come into force on October 1. The industry believe these are wholly unnecessary, as they already have high safety standards in self-catering, B&Bs and guest houses.

Businesses face major costs of compliance - up to twenty times more than the estimated few hundred quid - as well as being absurdly complex. Many need to get planning permission as well as a licence.

READ MORE: Paul McLennan: The vast majority of hosts are responsible

This all has to be done at their busiest time of the year! Perhaps worse of all, these businesses, mostly run by small family businesses, which are hard-working and law-abiding, now feel beleaguered - not wanted.

From my six years as Tourism Minister I know they are the lifeblood of tourism in Scotland: providing excellent accommodation often at modest cost. Without them, I fear many people who are not well-off will no longer be able to afford holidays in their own country but instead be driven abroad.

The Herald:

With the deadline looming, few businesses have applied for the necessary licence, and the majority are considering closing down altogether. Some already have. Many have suffered mental health impacts and thousands may face criminal charges if they trade without a licence after October 1.

Already one court challenge has succeeded against a council regime to implement the STL. Others are planned. Few in industry believe the councils, who have the tough job of making this work, will be able to do this in time for the deadline - or even way into next summer.

PART ONE: 'The failure of operators rests with them'

PART TWO: 'We are running towards the cliff edge'

I urge the First Minister to halt these regulations now, before it’s too late.

He has a golden opportunity to help business and reset the troubled relationship the Scottish Government currently has with the business community.

It would show guts and gumption. It would demonstrate true leadership.

If he does, there are simpler and better ways to ensure highest standards, and the industry is ready and willing to work with government to achieve them.

Fergus Ewing is SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn and was Scotland's longest-serving Tourism Minister, from 2011 to 2016 and then during Covid from February 2020 to 2021.