Small tourism business operators have said they are caught between "a rock and a hard place" as only a small number of short-term lets operators are registered in Scotland's largest cities.

In day one of a three-part series focusing on Scotland's short-term lets, one business owner and sector representative in the Scottish capital claimed a 2% success rate for applications was putting operators in fear of applying.

However, community representatives who have fought to get the law to this stage say that operators have had four years of consultation and that it is now “the settled will of the Scottish Parliament”.

The groups said that "failure of short-term lets operators in the City of Edinburgh to make suitable planning and licensing applications rests with them".

It comes as councils in Edinburgh and Glasgow said there had been an increase in applications, but that the numbers remain very low.

READ MORE: Scotland’s short-term lets law - how it works

In Edinburgh up to Wednesday, September 6, there had been 90 applications for planning permission granted, 62 withdrawn, and 204 refused, and with applications for certificate of lawfulness for existing use there were 91 granted, six withdrawn and 11 refused.

In Glasgow, the council said its licensing team currently has 223 short-term lets applications, and added that numbers "are now increasing".

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Louise Dickins, who manages 70 homes in Edinburgh and is director of the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers, said operators remain concerned. 

She said there had been a "98% rejection of planning applications, which is the first step".

The Herald: Louise Dickins, at a protest at the Scottish Parliament this weekLouise Dickins, at a protest at the Scottish Parliament this week (Image: Duncan McGlynn)

“So, you’ll understand that anyone applying is between a rock and a hard place," Ms Dickins said. “In Edinburgh and Glasgow in particular, it’s complex and onerous to the point where people aren’t applying because they’re confused and concerned."

"People are pro regulation – that isn’t the issue here. The issue is the complexity of a scheme dreamed up by civil servants with no experience of how short-term lets work in the real world."

OPINION: Paul McLennan: Why short-term lets operators should apply for a licence

Groups including the Cockburn Association, PLACE Edinburgh, New Town & Broughton Community Council, Old Town Association, Grassmarket Residents’ Association (GRASS) and Living Rent have come together on the issue.

They said: "The regulation of short-term lets follows years of discussion and debate after the expansion of Airbnb-style accommodation occurred with no regulation or checks. 

"It is the settled will of the Scottish Parliament and the City of Edinburgh Council that short-term lets must be regulated. The failure of short-term lets operators in the City of Edinburgh to make suitable planning and licensing applications rests with them.

"There can be no claim of lack of engagement or lack of awareness of the new and existing regulations."

The Herald: Cammy Day, council leader, outside the city chambersCammy Day, council leader, outside the city chambers (Image: Gordon Terris)

Cammy Day, leader of City of Edinburgh Council, said: “As we get closer to this date we’re continuing to work with the sector to ensure everyone understands what they need to do to operate within the law. We’re urging all operators in the city to apply now if they haven’t already.

“We have clear guidance on our website which explains how to apply for planning permission and a short term let licence in Edinburgh. We’ve also laid out the costs involved, which we think are fair.”

It said the costs of applying to operate within the law would be close to £750 for planning plus £650 for the licence for a one bedroom flat, while operators said this can be up to £3,000.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said that "after October 1, if existing hosts continue to operate a short-term let without an application being lodged with the licensing authority then it is a criminal offence".

There has been increasing political pressure from Opposition MSPs on First Minister Humza Yousaf to extend the deadline.

Paul McLennan, Scottish Housing Minister, said: "Regulation of short-term lets has been introduced at a time of significant growth and change in the sector and to make sure that accommodation is safe, well-managed and meeting a consistent standard, as well as responding to community concerns on the impacts."

He said existing hosts have had 20 months lead time to apply for a licence.

"If they do so they will be able to keep trading," added Mr McLennan. "If they don’t meet that deadline they will have to stop trading until they get a licence."

Tomorrow: Scotland's Highland tourism hotspots 'face accommodation shortage'