Edinburgh Council leader ‘sorry’ for STL comment and urges hosts to apply ‘now’

Friday September 1st 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

The leader of Edinburgh City Council has urged short-term let landlords who have not yet applied for a licence to do so “now” as he apologised for a “slip up” during a live radio interview in which he backed an extension to the looming deadline.

Councillor Cammy Day said the council remains “absolutely committed” to introducing regulations for Airbnb-style accommodation on October 1st.

Existing hosts across Scotland have just one month left to lodge an application if they wish to keep legally operating while it is processed, with the cut-off fast approaching. Entire homes used for holiday letting are also required to seek planning permission under the new rules.

As of the start of this week only 287 had been received by the authority, out of an estimated 7,000 short-term lets (STLs) in the capital.

Despite the go-live date already being pushed back from April by the Scottish Government, calls have intensified for the scheme to be paused as industry bodies and politicians warn the regulations, which also apply to bed and breakfast accommodation, will wipe out the sector.

Any further delay has been ruled-out by First Minister Humza Yousaf however.

Eyebrows were raised last week as Cllr Day said during an interview that a revision of the deadline would be “something we would be supportive of” despite this not being the council’s position.

“If [the sector] want to join us in the lobby to ask for an extension to that time then we’d be more than happy to have that discussion,” the council leader told BBC Radio Scotland on Wednesday, August 23rd.

The comments sparked a backlash from councillors, residents and local organisations who have campaigned for tighter controls on STLs, which it is argued are needed to address the city’s housing crisis, curb anti-social behaviour and ensure the safety of guests.

Speaking a week after the broadcast during a full council meeting, Cllr Day said: “The council is implementing the legislation provided by the Scottish Parliament and that implementation date remains the 1st of October this year.

“It remains our position and only Scottish Government ministers can alter that.

“That is my position and that of the council, something I have repeated on many public platforms over the last few months. However, I do accept on the 23rd of August on a Radio Scotland interview I slipped up and made a commitment to something different from that, saying we would be supportive of any change to that implementation date. For that I apologise.”

He said the remarks had “not had any known impact on any of our council colleagues working on processing the applications”.

But Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang said they had been “damaging to the ongoing work to encourage STL landlords to apply for a licence given the limited time that is left”.

The SNP’s Danny Aston said a “growing number of Edinburgh residents” knew the council leader as “Calamity Day”.

Cllr Day said: “I do apologise to the chamber for the slip up that I made on that one radio broadcast but we are absolutely committed to that date.

“It’s not the first time a council leader has had to stand here and apologise for some mistakes, it’s a challenging job and sometimes we don’t always get it 100 per cent right.

“I would encourage the sector to abide by the regulations set out by the Scottish Government and the council has adopted and that that date is the 1st of October, we would encourage the sector to get their applications in now.

“I understand there’s been a low number of applications in comparison to the number of short-term lets we have in the city, so I would urge the sector to get their applications in soon to allow the committee to deal with them accordingly.”

This week a letter to the First Minister signed by a cross-party group of 37 MSPs called for a pause to the roll-out of legislation.

It said licensing registers indicated 97 per cent of all types of holiday had not yet applied, adding: “This is not a sustainable position, and it will put small businesses, individuals and councils across Scotland in invidious positions if allowed to continue.”

They argued the scheme should be put on hold to “urgently reassess its effects on not only the tourism sector, but the wider economy and people’s lives”.

This prompted an open letter from the city’s heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association alongside local housing and community groups urging Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government to “give little weight to the pressures posed by a well-funded industry lobby group”.

It said: “The failure of STL operators in the City of Edinburgh to make suitable planning and licensing applications rests with them.

“The question of whether the STL industry needs to be regulated, and how, has been settled. There has been substantial consultation over a 4-year period beginning in April 2019 giving communities and STL operators and lobbyists plenty of scope to put their views forward.

“There can be no claim of lack of engagement or lack of awareness of the new and existing regulations.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “There will not be another extension to the deadline.

“It is the right thing to do to bring this licensing scheme in. There has, of course, been an extension already.

“I know that there are some concerns. We continue to work with the sector, in fact cabinet secretary Neil Gray met with the sector, I think it was just last week.

“We’ll continue to engage with the sector where we can but there’ll be no more extensions.”

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