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What’s the Future of the Scottish Short-Term Licensing Scheme in 2023?

Scotland, with its captivating landscapes, historic treasures, and cultural allure, has long been a favourite for travellers. The rise of platforms like Airbnb has transformed the way tourists immerse themselves in the Scottish experience, leading to an influx of short-term lets. However, the rapid growth has brought challenges to the fore, and the recent introduction of licensing for short-term lets has become a focal point of discussions. Let’s delve into the intricacies of this new licensing system and the growing calls for a pause.

The Licensing Landscape: What’s New?

At the heart of the debate is the legislation that mandates all short-term let operators in Scotland to obtain a licence by 1 October. This move is multifaceted:

  1. Addressing Housing Demand: In tourist hubs like Edinburgh, there’s a growing concern about the decreasing availability of properties for long-term rent. The licensing initiative aims to find a middle ground, ensuring the local housing market remains robust.
  2. Ensuring Guest Safety and Quality: The licensing process will encompass safety checks and adherence to certain standards, benefiting both tourists and hosts.
  3. Mitigating Anti-Social Behaviour: The system seeks to reduce disturbances in populated areas due to short-term lets.

The MSPs’ Intervention

A significant development in this saga is the intervention of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). Several MSPs, cutting across party lines, have called on the First Minister to reconsider the commencement of the licensing scheme. Their concerns are manifold:

  • Potential Impact on the Tourism Sector: MSPs fear that the new regulations might deter small operators, thereby affecting the broader tourism industry.
  • Economic Implications: With the tourism sector still recovering from the pandemic’s effects, there are concerns that the licensing scheme might add another layer of financial strain on operators.
  • Implementation Challenges: The variability in rules and potential licensing fees across Scotland’s 32 councils is a significant point of contention. MSPs worry about the undue burden on operators, especially smaller ones.

Given these concerns, the MSPs’ call is clear: pause and reconsider the licensing plans to ensure they are fair, practical, and beneficial in the long run.

Looking Ahead

While the debate continues, it’s evident that the licensing system’s primary goal is to strike a balance. It seeks to ensure Scotland remains a top tourist destination, offering quality accommodations, while also addressing local concerns.


In wrapping up, the short-term lets scenario in Scotland is evolving, with the licensing system at its core. The MSPs’ call for a pause adds another layer to this complex issue. As the deadline nears, Scotland’s approach to harmonising the interests of tourists, operators, and residents will be keenly watched.

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