WELLBEING Economy Secretary Neil Gray has insisted that the Scottish Government will not back down on pushing ahead with the short term lets licensing scheme.

The Airdrie and Shotts MSP told the Holyrood Weekly podcast that while Humza Yousaf may have taken the decision to pause on other policies such as alcohol advertising and HPMAs, the incoming short term lets scheme will be going ahead.

Gray admitted that the pushback from the sector had been “challenging” but that the Scottish Government was committed to the October 1 start date, due to come in after an initial six-month delay.

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He also told The National’s podcast that incoming rent controls, part of the Housing Bill set to be introduced this summer, are “incredibly important” but ministers will seek to strike a balance between tenants rights and keeping a strong housing supply.

We previously told how the Scottish Tories have pledged to force a vote on the scheme now that the Scottish Parliament has returned after summer recess, with Douglas Ross urging SNP rebels and other MSPs to join forces and stop the scheme from going ahead.

It will be a criminal offence to let either a room in a home or an entire property after the October 1 deadline without a license, and the Scottish Government have pointed out no applications have so far been refused.

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

The National: Short term let landlords held a protest outside of Holyrood this weekShort term let landlords held a protest outside of Holyrood this week (Image: Getty Images)

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.

A survey of short term landlords claimed that two-thirds of businesses in the sector are considering closing, with pressure from lobbyists growing in recent weeks.

Speaking to the Holyrood Weekly podcast, Gray said: The push back there on licensing has been challenging. You know, the legislation has been in place for I think 20 months.

“I think there is a feeling that, because we have looked again at and paused some other elements of policy that we will pause on short term lets licensing.

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“We're not, we're committed to the first of October.”

The Cabinet Secretary explained that this was due to the previous extension to the scheme, but added he was willing to listen to “sensible propositions” to ensure it is implemented as fair as possible.

“I've been listening over the summer, I've been engaging, I know Paul McLennan [housing minister] has, I know Richard Lochhead [small business minister] has and others, obviously, will listen to that.

“But what we won't do is see the proposition, the policy intent behind licensing, which is about driving up standards and providing consistent standards for a flourishing tourism industry in Scotland.

The National: Neil Gray and Humza Yousaf

“Also to ensure that local authorities have the ability to ensure that there can be a control in the expansion, where there are many communities, in places that I was visiting over the summer, including the likes of Orkney, and places in the Highlands and Islands, where there are 40, 50, 60% proliferation of short term lets, of second homes in those communities, impacting the viability of those communities where people aren't able to live in them.

“I think that's crucially important. So we can’t see the principles of that diminished in the legislation.”

Gray added that the Scottish Government will listen to any “sensible suggestions” put forward regarding the scheme.

On the incoming Housing Bill, the Cabinet Secretary said he believes rent controls are key to tackling issues around housing.

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“I think what's going to be important is making sure that we continue to protect tenants whilst also ensuring that we continue to have a good supply of housing,” he said.

“It's ensuring that we continue to have an investable proposition for housing in Scotland and that's of all tenures and making sure that we have a rent control scheme that is going to be sustainable over the long term.

“As I say, protects tenants from unfair rent rises but also ensures that we have an investable proposition that allows new housing to be built because that in itself, new housing supply is dampening on rent rises because you're not seeing the same competition.

“I’m looking forward to that coming through, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to engage with that alongside stakeholders that I’ve been discussing this with over the summer.”

Gray spoke to the Holyrood Weekly podcast to discuss Yousaf’s first Programme for Government since becoming FM and a whole range of issues.

The first episode of our second season will be available on the Omny streaming platform, Spotify and The National’s website on Friday September 8.