Attacks on Scotland’s short term letting are an insult to tourism

Fiona Campbell

Friday November 10th 2017

In his recent article for this newspaper, Andy Wightman MSP made a number of claims as part of an extended attack on Scotland’s short term letting sector.

While healthy debate is to be encouraged, we at the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) feel that it is important to set the record straight on the state of our sector.

The article, published on the back of a recent debate in the Scottish Parliament, is replete with what can most charitably be described as hearsay, inaccurate data procured from “scraping”, and anecdotal evidence.

For instance, his claim that short term letting deprives local authorities of significant funding is provably untrue, and claiming so does a severe disservice to all those involved in the sector, the majority of whom work extremely hard and provide a world class experience.

Given the importance of the subject involved, the use of such poor data and research methods comes close to being genuinely harmful and is insulting to Scotland’s vital tourism sector.

The real picture of Scotland’s self-catering sector is, in fact, a very healthy one. The self-catering sector is comprised of dedicated and hard-working professionals who ensure a positive visitor experience for visitors to Scotland.

Self-catering supports more than 15,000 jobs in the Scottish economy and generates £723m of consumer spending in our country.

Tourism boost

The City of Edinburgh, which has been the subject of much of Mr Wightman’s apparent concern, gains considerable benefits from the short-term rental sector; to the tune of more than 2,500 jobs and an impressive £50m of economic activity.

These figures, garnered from rigorous and empirical research, speak for themselves and demonstrate that self-catering contributes immensely to Scotland’s vital tourism industry.

If Scotland is to live up to its well-earned reputation as an open and welcoming country, which encourages visitors from around the world to come here, which I’m sure we all want, then it would seem to be, at best, counterproductive to spread misinformation, brought on by anecdote and hearsay, about a sector that does so much to support it.

We at the ASSC, alongside our colleagues from across the short-term letting sector, are proud of the contribution we make to the Scottish economy.

Our sector creates and supports jobs, generates economic growth, and enables many visitors to our wonderful country to have once-in- a-lifetime holidays. The future for our business is a bright one and our outlook is positive.

However, we are concerned that if Andy Wightman, and his colleagues, have their way and implement restrictive and strangulating regulations, based on dodgy data and other imprecise kinds of information, then we will be prevented from doing what we do best.

It would be one thing to impose unnecessary and poorly thought out regulations on such a vital sector – but it would be altogether worse to do so when the reasons for it are completely, utterly, and totally unfounded.

We at the ASSC will fight every effort to do so, for the good of our sector and for the good of the wider Scottish economy.

The author is chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers