A new licensing scheme for Airbnb style short-term let owners is grounded in 'lies and nonsense' and risks putting small businesses into the red, industry leaders claim.

SNP ministers have been forced to delay final plans for the crackdown after officials were flooded with more than 1,000 responses to a consultation including some questioning “the competency of the legislation”.

Despite the new delay, councils will still have until October 2022 to set up a licensing scheme.

Existing hosts and operators must have applied for a licence before April 2023 or face hefty fines – while all short-term lets must be licensed by April 2024. Under the plans owners would also be required to renew licences every three years.

Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers (ASSC) says businesses registered with Visit Scotland which already adhere to strict health and safety requirements should be exempt from regulation.

READ MORE: Scottish Government forced to delay final Airbnb crack down plans amid competency claims 

She says local authority polices already exist to deal with nuisance noise complaints while the cost will place a heavy burden on small businesses trying to recover from heavy pandemic losses and claims the government is not being consistent in its rationale for introducing the scheme.

 "The Scottish Government is underpinning this with lies and nonsense and that is not good enough when we are talking about tiny micro-businesses," she said.

HeraldScotland:

 

"Clearly, we have always said that any accommodationneeds to be safe for the guests.

"What we've been saying to Airbnb for years is that they just need to communicate with hosts about the existing health and safety legislation. If they had done that in 2016, we wouldn't be here now.

"In 2017 I actively asked Scottish Government to introduce a registration scheme with mandatory health and safety and licensing in areas where there is a demonstrable link between short-term lets and housing pressure.

"They didn't do it and the frustrating thing is that now they are saying it's about health and safety.

"Anytime we say to them that we already follow health and safety regulations, they say it's about affordable housing and housing crisis.

"They are saying that it's going to cost about £300 but they have been told by the Law Society and local authority lawyers that it's going to be more like £1500 to £2000. It's more than a hotel pays for their licence."

READ MORE: Planning consent bid to stop the rise in Highland Airbnb-style lets  

Ms Campbell says the scheme could potentially allow a complaint from one neighbour to affect a license application and said she had faced opposition herself from neighbours after launching a short-term let business with her husband Ali at a family cottage in Arrochar in 2017. She has run another self-catering business for 19 years.

"It's neighbours versus bona fide businesses," she said. 

HeraldScotland:

"They talk about trying to protect community cohesion but actually, what it's going to do its make it completely divisive.

READ MORE: Edinburgh short-term lets could be banned in tenement flats 

"It gives all the power to the neighbour and all these tiny businesses up and down the country are going to get shut down. And every three years you are going to panic that you are not going to get it.".

She claims the government is using "misleading" Airbnb listing figures to justify the scheme because owners can advertise individual rooms.

The ASSC leader says the new scheme is legally incompetent in six different areas and claims it is also discriminatory against women because the vast majority are run by women who can fit businesses around family commitments.

"Currently they are exempting hotels, licensed caravan parks, serviced accommodation and things like boats. If it's about health and safety why are you not licensing all of them.

"If you are a bona fide business on non-domestic rates and already complying with all the health and safety regulations that you would be registered with Visit Scotland and should be exempt. 

"If it's about health and safety, they can introduce the legislation for casual hosts.

"If it's about anti-social behaviour, there is existing legislation in place for that so use it and if it's about housing, they already have the legislation to deal with that."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "Registration does not offer the same protections to guests, neighbours and local communities as licensing does, and our proposals ensure that all short-term lets across Scotland adhere to a common set of safety standards.

“Average indicative fees are estimated to be in the range £223 and £377 to cover a three year licence. Licence fees have not yet been set, and actual levels of fee are up to local authorities.

“We are currently carefully reviewing responses to our consultation on the draft legislation and BRIA, and intend to lay licensing legislation at the Scottish Parliament in November.

“We are committed to getting this important legislation absolutely right, and monitoring its implementation.”