Only a few hundred short-term lets operators in Scotland's two largest cities have been granted licences, The Herald has learned on the eve of controversial new rules becoming law.

There has been a tense end to the run up to the introduction of new tourism laws designed to tackle issues around Airbnb-style short-term lets and an angry accusation from within the industry that First Minister Humza Yousaf had "turned his back" on Scottish tourism came as a snap poll showed a third of operators have not registered ahead of Sunday's going live date.

The law has been introduced to help tackle issues around the rise in unregulated Airbnb-style short-term lets including housing pressures and anti-social behaviour.

In Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, the council said that "as of Wednesday this week, we have received a total of 420 applications - 150 have come in from the start of the week ... this figure includes applications that have been granted, rejected and awaiting consideration". A breakdown was to follow.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf responds to tourism industry: Read letter in full

In Edinburgh, by 2pm on Friday, there had been "approximately 2,150 total short-term lets licence applications", and the council also said that "as at September 18, the we had received 703 applications ... of these 369 applications had been processed - 106 home letting, 80 secondary letting, 83 home sharing, 100 home letting and sharing - and 206 had been approved".

There is estimated to be as many as between 12,000 to 14,000 short-term lets operators in the Scottish capital.

The Herald: The licensing scheme, which was due to be launched in March before being delayed for six months, is mandatory for all short-term let accommodation across Scotland, including holiday cottages, B&Bs, guest houses, pods, and yurtsThe licensing scheme, which was due to be launched in March before being delayed for six months, is mandatory for all short-term let accommodation across Scotland, including holiday cottages, B&Bs, guest houses, pods, and yurts (Image: Newsquest)

City of Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day said: "Over the weekend we will be putting extra resources to manage the expected high volume of applications.

“On Monday the regulatory committee will be considering our approach to enforcement in the city.

 “We’re committed to ensuring that everyone benefits from Edinburgh’s thriving visitor economy, but this must be managed, and it has to be sustainable – and these fair and effective short term let controls are an important step in the right direction.”

In Highland, which has around 10,000 operators, there were by Thursday  6,207 applications with 1,587 issued and none refused.

The law has been criticised by operators as being costly and complicated.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers, said: "Thousands of jobs remain at risk in the heart of our tourist economy – self-catering and B&Bs – and that’s before we even consider the impact on related tourism and hospitality industries that rely on their guest spend.

"There’s still time pause and reflect on the mess that this legislation is creating, it will be much more difficult to unpick once the damage has been done.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Licensing authorities continue to process and grant licence applications, and at this point we are not aware of any that have been refused.

"Authorities are continually updating their publicly available registers to reflect new applications, once they have been initially reviewed and validated. As many existing hosts have submitted applications close to the deadline of 1 October 2023, public registers will not currently provide an accurate picture of overall numbers that have applied.

"On 31 August, the Scottish Government started publishing quarterly official statistics about short-term let licensing. The figures covering the period up to 30 September 2023 is expected to be published in early 2024.

"If existing hosts submitted their applications before 1 October, they can continue to trade and welcome guests whilst their licensing authority considers their application, the scheme remains open to new applications. Licensing authorities have 12 months to process applications for existing hosts." 

Also this week, business editor Ian McConnell wrote that "demolition would be a sad end to a grand old landmark's woe", opining: "It has in recent years become increasingly demoralising to walk past Ayr’s grand old Station Hotel."

On the high street, deputy business editor Scott Wright questions whether Aldi is right about the future of grocery shopping as he wrote: "When the latest official figures on UK inflation were announced last week, the reaction among analysts almost appeared to be one of relief."

Elsewhere, specialist spirits purveyor Duncan Taylor this week released the newest malt from its "Rarest Collection" with a recommended retail price of £5,700, wrote business correspondent Kristy Dorsey.

Dating from March 1983, the Port Ellen 40-year-old is a limited release of 209 bottles from cask number 667, one of the last batches of Port Ellen production and mere weeks before the Islay distillery closed its doors for the last time in May of that year.