A CRACKDOWN on Airbnb-style short-term lets has been announced in Scotland following widespread concerns over their impact on communities.

The SNP said it would bring in a licencing scheme as well as prioritising work to give councils the power to introduce special control areas.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart also said he would review the rules around their taxation.

He said: “Short-term lets can offer people a flexible travel option and have contributed positively to Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies across the country.

“However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hot spots, high numbers of short-term lets are causing problems and often make it harder for people to find homes to live in.

“That is why we are empowering local authorities to implement a system that works for their area.

“By giving councils the power to set conditions around short-term lets licences and put in place planning control areas to tackle hot spots, communities across Scotland will be able to decide what is best for them and their local economy.

“Everybody wants visitors, hosts, neighbours and local residents to be safe. That is why the licensing scheme includes a safety element which will be mandatory across Scotland for all short-term lets.

“Separately, local authorities will be given discretion to include further conditions to help tackle littering or overcrowding of properties."

Half of the 35,000 Airbnb listings in Scotland are located in just 24 of its 354 council wards. Edinburgh plays host to 31 per cent of all short-term lets.

Mr Stewart said he aimed to provide local authorities with the ability to implement a licensing scheme from spring next year.

Councils will also be able to designate control areas to ensure that planning permission will always be required to transform entire properties into short-term lets.

Ministers said they would “carefully and urgently consider how short-term lets will be taxed in the future to ensure they make an appropriate contribution to local communities and support local services”.

This will complement existing plans for a tourist tax, they said.

Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey welcomed the move.

He said: "It meets our request for mandatory licences and we will now be in a position to more effectively implement planning controls to stop this increase.

"A review of taxation in this area will also make sure that businesses are paying properly for income they’re receiving and local services they’re using.

“In 2018, we set up a working group to look at this in detail and provide recommendations, the main one being the need for a regulatory system.

"Since then we’ve been working closely with the Scottish Government on the implementation of a new regulatory system, so I'm delighted that we’ll now be able to take this forward, and soon."

Scottish Greens local government spokesman Andy Wightman MSP said: “I am pleased that the minister has finally acted on my long-term campaign and informed parliament of his plans to regulate short term lets.

"Those communities who have been adversely impacted by short term lets will be pleased that the government has now committed to introducing a much-needed, long overdue licensing scheme by 2021."

However, Scottish Tory housing spokesman Graham Simpson said there was “next to no details” about how the regulation might work.

A spokesman for Airbnb said: “We have long supported calls for fair regulations and a tourism tax in Scotland.

“Now we want to work with the Scottish Government and local authorities on clear and simple guidance for hosts.

“Together we can help locals share their homes and follow the rules, and avoid a system that excludes working families through fees, barriers and bureaucracy.

“Our platform is an economic lifeline for countless local families and travel on Airbnb boosts the Scottish economy by almost £2 million a day.”