THE Scottish Government’s new licensing scheme has been under intense scrutiny this week.

Introduced amidst the backdrop of a rapid rise in the number of Airbnb listings in Scotland and a housing crisis, it requires hosts to display energy performance ratings on listings, have adequate buildings and public liability insurance, as well as various fire and gas safety precautions.

Due to go live on October 1 – after an initial 6-month delay – industry leaders have again been in lobbying overdrive, sounding the alarm and claiming the scheme will decimate Scotland’s tourism sector.

They have also expressed significant concerns over the costs of obtaining a licence, with individual local authority costs ranging from £250 to £5,869.

On Tuesday, the Scottish Conservatives said they will hold a debate and force a vote on the scheme before the October deadline.

This was followed on Wednesday by a letter signed by a total of 37 MSPs, including all 31 Conservatives and party leader Douglas Ross, three frontbench Labour MSPs, two LibDems and SNP MSP Fergus Ewing calling on Humza Yousaf to delay the scheme.

The First Minister has repeatedly ruled out a further extension to the deadline.

The discourse surrounding the issue has been far from error-free, so The National has taken the time to debunk and answer some of the claims circulating on social media.

That short-term lets legislation isn’t law yet

Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross appeared to suggest that short-term lets legislation wasn’t yet law in a tweet on Tuesday.

He tweeted: “I confirmed @ScotTories will force a vote on the issue in Holyrood because if it becomes law, many people will lose their businesses.”

This is, of course, false. The legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament in January 2022 – and came into force two months later.

That the Scottish Government is rejecting applications

Claims on social media have circulated claiming that the Scottish Government are rejecting the applications of short-term lets operators.

But that isn’t true. In fact, statistics published on Thursday showed that across all 32 council areas, no applications have been turned away.

What is true is that uptake is low. The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers said its recent survey of around 1,270 short-let businesses found more than 60% of operators had yet to apply for a licence.

It is important to clarify, however, that hosts can continue receiving guests while their application is being determined – another aspect which seems to be the source of some confusion online.

That the scheme will decimate Scotland’s tourism industry

No doubt, the legislation will have an impact on short-term let operators.

A snap survey by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) found 64% of operators are considering leaving the sector because of the scheme.

But its potential impact on Scottish tourism isn’t as clear cut.

Kenneth Haar, a researcher for Corporate Europe Observatory, has observed the rollout of many licencing schemes in cities across Europe including Barcelona, Paris and Berlin.

He told The National that a reduction in short-term lets didn’t necessarily hurt the tourism industry, particularly with consumer habits with regards to AirBnB changing.

The owner of short-term let agency Dickins also said that “we should all say goodbye to the Edinburgh Fringe” as the lack of short-term lets would make it unfeasible.

This is a concern for SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, who told The National that they do have to guard against unintended consequences for Scotland’s tourism sector but that this was already being discussed, including a possible festival exemption scheme.

That the scheme won’t have any impact on Scotland’s housing challenges

The Scottish Bed & Breakfast Association said the scheme will do “absolutely nothing” to tackle concerns about housing challenges in Scotland – mainly the lack of availability of properties to rent and buy.

It’s a claim circulating widely on social media but, again, should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

For example, Malcolm Pickard from Tay Lettings told The Scotsman in 2022 – just after the legislation was first passed – that the policy is “likely to have a plateauing effect” on the price of rent as landlords shift from short to longer-term lets.

He added that: “Since the start of the year, we’ve seen dozens of landlords come to us to inquire about switching from short-term lets to private rentals."