The original architect of Scotland's crackdown on unregulated short-term lets has moved to challenge part of the resulting law set out by the Scottish Government.

Andy Wightman, the Scottish land expert and former Green and independent MSP who championed regulation of Airbnb-style lets amid a rise in their number, has questioned the inclusion of house swaps and house sitting in the legislation.

He said that house swaps, where two parties agree to swap their home for a period of time - usually for a holiday - and house sitting, should not be considered as it is not part of a business transaction, or "in the course of business".

The Scottish Government has introduced the licensing law that goes live on October 1 to tackle issues around the rise of unregulated Airbnb-style short-term lets including anti-social behaviour and housing pressures.

Mr Wightman said in his blog: "Many people across Scotland who undertake house swaps are now being left in a state of significant uncertainty. Should they apply for a licence for home letting?

"My advice to anyone who wishes to engage in a house swap is as follows.

"House swapping is not 'the provision of residential accommodation provided by a host to a guest in the course of business'. You do not need a licence or a temporary exemption. You will not be committing a criminal offence. Crack on.*"

The Herald: Land reformer and former Green Party MSP Andy Wightman in his Highland woodLand reformer and former Green Party MSP Andy Wightman in his Highland wood (Image: Gordon Terris)

He added: "*For the avoidance of doubt, this statement does not constitute legal advice."

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison said in response to a question from Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser: "I will ensure that clarity is made available not just to Murdo Fraser but to other members across the chamber.

"With regard to the policy per se, it is important that Murdo Fraser and others encourage those people who are running short-term lets to get their licence in order by October 1, because that will be critical."

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers (ASSC), said: "We are not against addressing unintended consequences, of which there are many, but seeking to exempt home swaps would undermine the fundamental intention of licensing to uphold basic health and safety standards across the board. 

"If ministers can contemplate changes at this late stage for one type of accommodation, others like self-caterers and B&B owners will be left scratching their heads as to why their concerns have been dismissed and ignored."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The core purpose of the scheme is to provide assurance to guests on the safety and quality of lets, this matters whether the accommodation is provided as a pre-arranged reciprocal arrangement to exchange homes, or as a short-term let business.

"Commercial consideration is clearly defined through guidance and supporting information which sets out further detail on the legislation."

It comes as First Minister Humza Yousaf has just responded to the industry in writing over a pause of the legislation.

Also this week, it was revealed that with just a matter of days until the system becomes law only around a third of short-term let businesses in Scotland have applied for a licence, reported deputy business editor Scott Wright.

A snapshot survey by the ASSC, which has been calling for the new laws to be reviewed and delayed amid concerns over their cost and complexity, found that just 36% have applied for a licence, while among those have applied only 10% have been granted a licence.

In Edinburgh, it found 22% have applied and just 1% of that number have been granted a licence, and in Perthshire 38% of operators have applied, with 8% securing a consent.

Business editor Ian McConnell broached the subject that has put pressure on Mr Yousaf in his On Business column, writing: "It has been another week in which it has seemed - when covering the economic and business scene - that politics has never been very far away.

"We have had continuing drama over the Scottish Government’s legislation on the licensing of short-term lets, with the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers ramping up its campaign against this ahead of the introduction of the new regulations."

Also this week, Finsbury Food, the new owner of snowball maker Lees Foods agreed to a £143.4 million takeover offer that involves Scottish bakeries employing more than 1,400 people, business correspondent Kristy Dorsey reported. Also included are Lightbody in Hamilton, and Johnstone's in East Kilbride.