HOUSING minister Paul McLennan has doubled down on the details of the short term lets licensing scheme and urged MSPs to encourage hosts to apply before the deadline.

It comes as the Scottish Conservatives are set to force a vote in Parliament on Wednesday in a bid to delay the scheme for a further 12 months.

Short-term let owners have until October 1, after an initial six-month delay, to sign up for the scheme, with the Scottish Government insisting that none have been refused so far.

McLennan sent a letter out to all MSPs on Tuesday saying it is “strongly in the interests” of short-term let operators to go through the application process. He added that “many thousands already have done”.

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As of September 5, data from 27 council public registers showed 3,537 licences have already been granted, while a further 3,643 are being considered.

The minister said that transitional arrangements are in place to allow hosts to continue operating while they await approval, and vowed to look into other ways to simply the process including “making it more straightforward to transfer a licence to a new operator” and update Parliament in due course.

Many of the concerns around the scheme exist due to the costs which are expected to be incurred as a result of applying, with hosts estimating differing amounts could be paid in individual council areas, resulting in some paying thousands.

However, McLennan’s letter tells MSPs that “councils must charge fees that are reflective of the costs incurred in processing the application and associated administration”, with average costs for a three-year licence estimated to be around £260 for home sharing of a double room and up to £520 for a secondary letter with a maximum occupancy of 10.

His letter states: “Many operators should not need to incur significant costs in complying with the mandatory safety aspects of the scheme especially if they are already running a business, which is in compliance with existing relevant legislation.”

And in an appeal to MSPs, he said: “I hope that you will support and encourage hosts to apply, especially existing hosts that must apply by October 1 to qualify to continue operating until their licence is determined.”

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Ahead of the debate, Scottish Greens MSP Ariane Burgess said the scheme would help communities which are experiencing the impact of soaring numbers of holiday lets.

She said: “This legislation has been a long time coming, and it will make a real difference. It is a watershed moment for housing in Scotland. Everyone should have access to a warm and affordable home.

“There is, of course, a place for well-managed holiday lets. Yet, from villages in the Highlands and Islands to busy tenement stairwells of our cities, homes are being crowded out by holiday lets. This is driving up prices and hollowing out our communities.

“The debate has focused a lot on the views of holiday let owners, but it is also vital that we hear from the families who are coping with increasing rents, the young people striving to get their first home and the community groups who want to see a better balance between weekly stays and more stable communities.”

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Speaking ahead of the debate, Scottish Tory business and tourism spokesman Murdo Fraser (below) said: “Ministers must see sense, listen to businesses and pause these destructive plans before it’s too late.”

The Tory MSP added: “This scheme – however well-intended some of its provisions are – is going to have huge and catastrophic unintended consequences if it goes ahead next month.

“It was designed to tackle problem city-centre units, but B&Bs, guest houses and those seeking house-swap arrangements will now be hit with crippling additional costs and bureaucracy.

“There is a real danger this will destroy small businesses and have a huge knock-on impact on the wider Scottish economy.

“Ministers risk repeating the mistakes of the shambolic deposit return scheme by ignoring the stark warnings of businesses and stubbornly ploughing ahead with a fatally-flawed policy.”