MORE than a third of the MSPs who signed a letter calling for a pause to the short-term lets licensing scheme have interests in the housing and rental sector, The National can reveal.

Of the 37 MSPs who were signatories on the letter to the First Minister, eight are current landlords and four are former landlords who relinquished their properties in the last 18 months.

A total of 15 (40.5%) of the MSPs who called for the delay to the scheme before the October 1 deadline have a relevant interest in the industry on their parliamentary register.

READ MORE: See the list of MSPs with links to rental sector who backed short-term lets delay

An analysis of MSPs' registers by The National found 12 Tory MSPs, two Scottish Labour MSPs and one SNP MSP, Fergus Ewing, have links to the sector.

The letter, published on Thursday, claimed the licensing scheme would cause “irreparable damage” to Scotland’s tourism sector.

Tenant’s rights campaigners Living Rent called the findings “appalling” and accused the MSPs of “selling out” to the short-term lets lobby.

It comes as a snap poll taken by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), who have been vocally campaigning for a second delay to the rollout of the scheme, claimed two-thirds of short-term let landlords are considering closing down because of it.

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The letter to Humza Yousaf (above) calling for a pause was signed by 31 Tory MSPs, three Scottish Labour frontbenchers, two LibDem MSPs and SNP MSP Ewing.

Ewing, who is the landlord of a property in Lossiemouth, told The National he did not consider the property a relevant interest as it is a long-term let and has been for the previous 16 years.

Tory MSPs Donald Cameron, Liam Kerr, Sandesh Gulhane, Alexander Burnett, Murdo Fraser and Edward Mountain have registered rental properties as an interest.

South Scotland region MSP Craig Hoy ceased his interest in a flat in Midlothian in February 2022, while Finlay Carson gave up his partnership in his family’s farming and property letting firm in Kirkcudbright in April 2023.

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Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie owned and rented a flat in Portugal until December 2022, while Central Scotland region MSP Mark Griffin rented out a flat in North Lanarkshire until July 2023.

Scottish Labour told The National any insinuation that Baillie or Griffin had anything to gain from signing the letter, as they are now former landlords, is “simply untrue”.

Elsewhere, Russell Findlay, the Tories justice spokesperson, and Mid Scotland and Fife region MSP Fraser, also a landlord, accepted tickets to the Scottish FA semi-final at Hampden Park in Glasgow in April 2023 from MFGC Holdings LTD, a firm whose interests include “letting and operating of owned or leased real estate".

The National: Scottish Conservative candidate for Aberdeenshire West, Alexander Burnett makes his acceptance speech for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections at the P&J Live/TECA, Aberdeen. Picture date: Saturday May 8, 2021..

Burnett (above), thought to be the Scottish Parliament’s richest MSP, also has interests and shares in a number of companies relating to property letting.

Mountain, understood to have a net worth of millions, is a partner in a farming business with “ancillary residential lettings” as well as a landlord to multiple properties.

Pam Gosal owns 50% of the share capital in APCL Trading Ltd, a property investments and letting company, worth around £700,000, while Rachael Hamilton owns 49% of the share capital in Borders Hotels Ltd in Melrose, worth around £120,000.

The Tories have said they will force a vote on the scheme when Holyrood returns from recess. 

Eilidh Keay, chair of Living Rent short-term let campaign group, said that landlords have been given “more than enough time” to apply to the licensing scheme and accused the MSPs who signed the letter of “selling out the wellbeing of people in Scotland” to lobbyists.

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“There is a real danger that these 37 MSPs will use their power to try and postpone the licensing scheme indefinitely at the expense of our cities and our housing,” she said.

“MSPs would do well to remember who they were elected to represent. It was not to protect the profits of a couple of landlords.”

Keay added that Scotland’s housing crisis is “out of control” and has been compounded by a surge in short-term lets.

“Regulation of STLs is not only vital but it is also overwhelmingly popular,” she added.

The National:

“Over 80% of respondents to the council’s consultation on STL were in favour of increased regulation."

Scottish Greens MSP Ariane Burgess (above) said the issue was that too many holiday lets in villages or common stairs in cities are “crowding out homes”.

"It is no surprise that the Tories have picked which side of the debate to be on,” she said.

“What is astonishing is where Labour and Lib Dems have positioned themselves.”

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Burgess pointed out that the Welsh Labour Government are introducing a similar scheme based on Scotland’s, while LibDem councillors in Edinburgh have backed the current timetable.

“This is shameless opportunism which lets down communities and those thousands of operators who have already applied for a licence,” she added.

SNP MSP Ewing (below), who refuted the suggestion he had any interest to declare, said his concern was with small businesses that are facing “costly, complex and unnecessary” regulations.

The National: SNP MSP Fergus Ewing Image: PA

He said anyone who continues to let out a property but does not meet the October 1 deadline for the scheme will be committing an offence.

Ewing told The National: “Since the vast majority have not applied, then it follows that tens of thousands of hard-working law-abiding people will be criminalised by these regulations. Surely that's punitive and must be halted now.”

Scottish Labour said the party voted against the regulations in Holyrood because of “concerns over how they were drafted” and “failure to account for the diversity of local housing needs”.

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“The insinuation that, despite neither member being landlords, Labour MSPs stand to gain something from supporting this letter is simply untrue,” a spokesperson said.

“Scottish Labour does not believe that the regulations tackle the real problems we face in a meaningful or proportionate way, which is why Scottish Labour is now considering how the forthcoming housing bill may provide opportunities to deliver a system of regulation that works for both local communities and the sector.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Tories said: “Our MSPs have been inundated with correspondence from constituents opposed to the SNP-Green government’s flawed short-term lets scheme.

“By signing this cross-party letter, our MSPs were standing up for the huge concerns raised by small business owners, many of whom will potentially be shutting their doors next month as a result.

“We hope that MSPs from all parties at Holyrood will send a clear message to SNP-Green ministers when we force a vote on this issue, that it must urgently be re-thought.”