The Scottish Government has been accused of “hypocrisy” and “secrecy” after spending more than £40,000 on Airbnb accommodation in the last four years.

The revelations come amid criticism from campaigners over short-term let properties, like those run by Airbnb hosts, who claim they decrease the availability of housing in tourist hotspots, resulting in increased rents and house prices.

In January, a licensing scheme was passed through Holyrood to improve regulations around the sector. Those plans will see councils given further powers by October, with all short-let operators required to apply for a licence by July 2024.

However, figures first revealed by The Scotsman show the Scottish Government has spent tens of thousands on Airbnb accommodation since the 2018/19 financial year – including almost £30,000 in 2019/20 alone.

The Herald:

Officials claim the properties were only booked when there was a “critical business need”.

But Scottish Conservatives’ housing spokesperson Miles Briggs told the paper questions should be raised over the costs.

He said: “It is also the height of hypocrisy at a time when ministers have ignored concerns from small businesses and ploughed ahead with their new licensing scheme regardless.

“Yet they appear all too happy to spend taxpayers’ money on the properties they want to hit with further regulation.

“Ministers should be upfront as to why these costs were so high, when public money was being used.”

The Herald: Miles BriggsMiles Briggs

The figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request show £2200 was spent on Airbnb properties by the Scottish Government in 2018/19, before taking a steep rise to nearly £29,000 in 2019/20.

The following financial year, spending on the Airbnb accommodation hit around £7000, before dropping to just over £2000 in 2021/22, as of the end of January.

Officials claimed they did not hold information around why the properties were needed, with “detail of the justification for expenditure” and links to the listings booked not held.

Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said the SNP’s regulation of the sector is “shambolic”.

He said: “While the SNP ramp up their rhetoric about regulating Airbnb, they have been handing over thousands of taxpayer pounds.

“Once again the SNP’s response to Airbnb is all over the place, much like their shambolic attempts at regulation.

“At a time when every single penny of public money is being squeezed, the SNP have questions to answer about these eye-watering sums.”

The Herald: Airbnb properties are popular in tourist hotspotsAirbnb properties are popular in tourist hotspots

Scottish Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Paul McGarry criticised the lack of information.

He said: "This Scottish Government has an addiction to secrecy. If you are spending £40k on Airbnbs, you should be telling the public what the pressing need was and explaining why this was the most effective way to accomplish some worthwhile goal.

"Anything else looks like a craven attempt to dodge scrutiny.

"We need a complete rewiring of Scottish Government culture. The presumption should be that information is accessible to the people who ultimately pay these bills, unless there is an extremely good reason for it to be kept secret."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These figures relate to spending of over 100 Scottish public sector bodies, including the Scottish Government.

"Airbnb has been used when there is a critical business need and in exceptional circumstance, for example for self-catered accommodation that was not available through the corporate travel management service.”

The spokesperson told The Scotsman that short-term lets had contributed positively to Scotland’s tourism industry, but regulation was needed to manage issues surrounding them more effectively.