The row over Scotland’s controversial new laws on Airbnb-style properties took a new twist last night when it was claimed the legislation could be illegal.

With less than three weeks until the new licensing regime for short-term lets goes live on October 1, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) has written to First Minister Humza Yousaf suggesting that the legislation may be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, and data protection and privacy laws.

The intervention comes amid an increasingly fractious public debate surrounding the legislation, which empowers local authorities to implement licensing regimes for short-term holiday letting accommodation in their areas.

The aim of licensing is to regulate the huge number of properties in Scotland now offered to tourists as holiday lets, which critics say is having a detrimental impact on housing supply for local residents and causing anti-social behaviour in certain areas.

However, representatives of the self-catering industry say the cost and complexity of securing a licence in certain areas is causing operators of small outlets such as B&Bs and guest houses to leave the industry in droves. It was estimated that just 20% of the estimated 32,000 short-term lets in Scotland had applied for a licence by August 31.

READ MORE: Scottish gold miner may go under 'in the next few weeks'

The ASSC says it has become increasingly concerned over the impact the new rules are having on individuals in Scotland’s small accommodation sector, stating that there is evidence of the debate “having a negative impact on community relations”.

And, in a letter to Mr Yousaf on Tuesday (September 12), chairman Adrienne Carmichael states that the requirement for STL applicants to publicly disclose personal data on licence application notices and local authority licensing registers could be in potential breach of Article 8 of the ECHR and the Scotland Act 1998, as well as the Data Protection Act and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Ms Carmichael, who notes that the ASSC has sought the advice of a top tier, independent law firm, writes: “We have been variously described as everything from alarmist to entitled parasites over the last two years, merely because we have tried to highlight the shortcomings of the STL legislation on behalf of our members. This low-level abuse has intensified more recently, to the extent that the great majority of our sector now feel under attack from all quarters, including the Scottish Government and local authorities.

“Crucially, the feedback coming from the short term let community now shows such a fundamental flaw in the implementation process that we are unable to continue to advise applicants to submit their applications before they seriously consider how their personal data, published on licence application notices and local authority licensing registers, might be used against them by those with ill intent.”

READ MORE: Historic Scottish law firms merge to create top-four player

Referring specifically to the ECHR and Scotland Act 1998, Ms Carmichael adds: “The requirement to list the applicant’s date of birth for example goes beyond what is strictly necessary and proportionate to operate a short -term licensing regime. This regime requires considerably more personal data of applicants to be published as compared to parallel requirements of the Scottish planning regime without clear justification and objective basis. If this is correct, then the 2022 Order (The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Licensing of Short-term Lets) Order 2022) is beyond the competence of the Scottish Parliament and thus open to legal challenge.”

Ms Carmichael goes on to state that “there is precious little, if any, evidence that any licensing authority in Scotland has conducted a data privacy impact assessment, as required by the relevant legislation and regulation”.

She adds: “We are now receiving a deluge of examples demonstrating the impact that this is having on perfectly law-abiding, hard-working and sometimes vulnerable self-catering and bed and breakfast owners and their staff. Whilst we have no intention of breaking confidentiality for the individuals concerned, we can say that they originate from a broad range of urban and rural local authority areas and, in some cases, the individuals concerned have already suffered serious harm directly related to the publication of their personal information.

“There are instances of operators who have worked in the security services and law enforcement, well versed in protecting their personal information from public scrutiny, who have now decided that the risks to them and their loved ones which are posed by a licence application are simply too great to take.”

The ASSC appealed to Mr Yousaf to suspend the legislation pending a review of the issues it has highlighted.

READ MORE: Alba: Scotland's newest bank boosts team ahead of launch

Ms Carmichael said: “Suspension would help avoid a deeply divisive debate, scheduled for the Scottish Parliament this Wednesday (September 13), and give the Scottish Government an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to monitoring its own regulations and listening to the tourism industry, in line with your New Deal for Business principles.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government are considering the terms of the letter from the ASSC and will respond appropriately in due course. Six impact assessments, including a Data Protection Impact Assessment, were published as part of the 2020 consultation on the scheme."