SCOTTISH Tory MSPs were photographed beside an “offensive” placard that appeared to liken the short-term lets licensing scheme to ethnic cleansing.

Pam Gosal, who has shares in a property letting agency, and Roz McCall were both pictured standing with campaigners at a protest held by short-term let landlords outside of Holyrood.

One woman in attendance was holding a sign that read: “Are you a pogrom parliament?”

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Pogrom is a Russian word, historically used to refer to violent attacks or “organised massacre” of Jewish populations and other ethnic groups in Russia and other countries in Europe.

The Associate of Scotland’s Self-Caters (ASSC) refuted the suggestion that the word related to ethnic cleansing and said it meant literally to “wreak havoc”.

A spokesperson swiftly claimed that the ASSC, who have been lobbying against the licensing scheme alongside Tory MSPs, did not organise the event and had “no control over attendees”.

The National: Fiona Campbell, right, pictured here with Tory MSP Graham Simpson, middle, in the Scottish

However, a press release ahead of the event from a PR firm did quote its chief executive Fiona Campbell (above, right).

Previously, Campbell claimed that the licensing scheme is sexist as a large number of short-term let landlords are women.

An SNP source said of the incident: “We should be able to disagree respectfully in a democracy without resorting to crass and offensive language such as this.”

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The protest was held outside of the Scottish Parliament at 1pm on Tuesday, ahead of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government (PfG) announcement.

Campaigners accused the Scottish Government of “demonising” small business owners in the sector as they continued to push for an extension to the deadline.

Many who attended the event claimed the scheme would destroy their business if it comes into force on October 1.

Asked if they supported the message on the placard at the protest and if the woman pictured was a member, a spokesperson for the ASSC said: “As you may be aware, the literal meaning of this word in Russian, and many Slavic languages, is to ‘wreak havoc’.

The National:

“This is the intended meaning in the use of the word on this sign.”

Just under 15 minutes later, the spokesperson followed up to insist that the protest was not organised by the ASSC and they had “no control over the event or attendees”.

McCall was also pictured with the protester in a separate image shared by a local democracy reporter in attendance. 

Debbie Klein, who owns one holiday let in Edinburgh, told a local democracy reporter at the protest that the plans were unfair and used the phrase "pogrom" to describe the parliament.

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It is not clear if Klein is the same person pictured holding the placard at the protest. 

She said: "This is unfair. I am a single parent with three boys. I downsized by own house in order to fund a short-term let in Edinburgh - my boys went without at the time in order for me to build up this business.

"The word pogrom means to destroy, to wreak havoc upon and to violently demolish.

"It's often associated with the Nazis and their treatment of the Jews, but if you look at the actual definition of the word, that is what they are doing to this sector.

"They are the parliament of pogroms. That is how I feel.

"Even if I wasn't a host, I would be here for my right to choice for my holiday and for everybody else's holiday.”

The licensing scheme was previously delayed by six months, and it will be a criminal offence to let either a room in a home or an entire property after this point without a license.

It covers bed and breakfasts, guest houses and self-catering sites, but will not apply to hotels.

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The scheme 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.

Operators have hit out at the costs involved with a survey from the ASSC claiming that two-thirds of short-term let businesses will close when the scheme comes into force.

We told how more than a third of MSPs who signed a letter calling on the First Minister to delay the scheme’s introduction have relevant interests in the housing and rental sector, including a number of whom were in attendance at the protest.

Gosal was included in the list, as she owns 50% of the share capital in APCL Trading Ltd, a property investments and letting company worth around £700,000.

The National: SNP Housing Minister Paul McLennan

The Scottish Tories have pledged to force a vote on the scheme now that the Scottish Parliament has returned from recess, despite the legislation being passed in January 2022.

According to Housing Minister Paul McLennan (above), 6323 applications to the scheme have been received and “none have been refused”.

“Over the last decade, the short-term sector has grown significantly and changed the nature which has brought economic benefits but also raised concerns about consistency of quality and the impact on local communities,” he said.

The Scottish Tories have been contacted for comment.