The owner of a self-catering cottage in the Western Isles has claimed a "perfect storm" of new SNP policies will be "as damaging as the clearances" for rural communities.

Frank Fitzpatrick inherited a croft house on South Uist that has been in his family for generations.

Due to ill health he gave up the crofting tenure and moved to the mainland with his wife and now lets the property out during the busy tourism season.

He said proposals to double council tax on second homes, energy efficiency targets for rented properties as well as the short-term let licensing scheme and tourism tax plan will force businesses to increase prices and damage tourism.

Visitors will vote with their hard-earned cash and go elsewhere.

He said the long-running Calmac ferry disruption had led to a 30% drop in bookings and said his frustration over SNP policy had led him to relinquish his party membership.

"These policies will be as damaging as the clearances and I never thought in my time I'd experience SNP clearances," he said.

"The existing licensing scheme for short-term lets is unfair, unreasonable and disproportionate. 

The Herald: Uist croft

"It takes no account of the fragile nature of our economy and other rural areas. I have no objections to improving safety having invested substantial sums on guest safety but the current scheme will lead to additional damage to our fragile economy."

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He said plans to double council tax on second homes that " already pay full council tax, provide local employment, support the building trades in the islands and bring in tourists" was unfair.

The Scottish Government hopes the plan will help increase housing provision in tourism hotspots.

Registers of Scotland data shows that while average prices across Scotland rose by 89%  in 2022 compared to the 2004 baseline, the increase was as high as 168% in  Shetland, 135% in the Western Isles and 107% in the Highlands.

Mr Fitzpatrick claimed there is no shortage of housing in the Uists.

He said: "I have a friend who works in housing who said they can't give council houses away.

"I can see that argument in places like Edinburgh.

The Herald:

"Some of the prices I've seen for the festival are absolutely astonishing.

"Most of the housing in the Western Isles is inherited. Where we live, six out of seven properties are within the same family and they have been for about 200 years.

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"If this is enacted local businesses will be forced to increase prices making the Hebrides less competitive, especially during the cost of living crisis.

"These visitors will vote with their hard-earned cash and go elsewhere."

"The proposal to inflict a tourism tax on small businesses will also exacerbate all of the above to the detriment of remote areas such as the Hebrides. 

"Taken together, I cannot think of a more effective way to damage already fragile communities simply for the political gain of a minority at the expense of the majority."

Mr Fitzpatrick, who lives near Glasgow and is retired from the Merchant Navy, said he will not be able to continue to let out the property after 2025 because of the costs involved in renovating the property to meet energy-efficiency targets. 

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The Scottish Government is to introduce regulations requiring all private rented properties to reach an energy efficiency rating of C from 2025.

To achieve this, owners must install floor, roof, walls and loft insulation, an efficient heating system as well as double-glazing and low-energy lighting.

He said: "For us to get to Grade C we have to spend anything between £8,000 and £12,000 and that doesn't guarantee we get a certificate.

"The surveyor actually said to us very few properties they have surveyed have achieved it.

"He said that even if people have the money to undertake the necessary work, I'm not sure the resource in available in the Western Isles for all the recommended work."

He said the islands were also inhibited by the lack of affordable broadband and the withdrawal of copper landlines "which many older properties rely on, if they are fortunate enough to have broadband."

He said: "The Scottish Government voucher scheme is not fit for purpose at it gives telecoms companies up to £5,000 per installation paid for by the taxpayer while those same taxpayers are to be charged another £2500 in addition for the same installation.

"A great deal for the telecoms companies but a poor deal for the taxpayer."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We are committed to supporting our rural and island communities, which play an important role as we strive towards a growing, fairer and greener economy with wellbeing at its heart.

"That is why we will be publishing a Rural Delivery Plan, which will show how all parts of the Scottish Government are delivering for rural Scotland.

"We fully understand the challenges facing our island communities such as the disruption to ferry services. 

“Our Reaching 100% (R100) and Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programmes have already connected around one million properties across Scotland to faster broadband. We are investing more than £600 million through the R100 contracts, extending full fibre broadband access to some of the hardest to reach rural communities in Scotland. 

"Last month we published a consultation seeking views on increasing council tax charges on second homes and long term empty properties, as a way of balancing local requirements for housing with those of tourism businesses and local economy they support. We encourage people to contribute to this consultation which is open until 11 July.”