A TORY bid to delay the short-term lets licensing scheme deadline by a year has failed despite both Labour and the LibDems backing the move. 

Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Tories' tourism spokesperson, led an opposition debate on Wednesday afternoon calling for a pause to the scheme that is set to go live on October 1.

Both Labour and LibDem MSPs said they would back the Tory motion during the debate, but the joint opposition attempt was unsuccessful.

The Scottish Greens later accused Labour of "betraying" communities by supporting the Tory motion. 

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After the deadline, it will be a criminal offence to let either a room in a home or an entire property without a licence.

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

Fraser’s motion passed, but amended by the Scottish Government, meaning that the delay will not go ahead. 

Housing minister Paul McLennan told MSPs that 7763 applications have been received by local councils, and 4708 applications have been issued so far.

“There are no caps, there is no cliff edge, there have been no refusals to date,” McLennan told the debate.

The National:

McLennan’s amendment, which voided Fraser’s (above) as it committed to the October 1 deadline, was successful.

Scottish Labour’s amendment, lodged by Mark Griffin but moved by Daniel Johnson after technical issues during the debate, was unsuccessful. It called on the Scottish Government to remove B&Bs, house swaps, those renting out a room in their home, and purpose-built accommodation from the scheme.

Moving the motion to force a vote on the scheme, Fraser told MSPs that “no one in this debate is opposed to sensible and proportionate legislation”.

“What is being proposed is the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut,” he added.

He said that the vote would be the first test of the Scottish Government’s attempt to reset the relationship with business and if the approach “amounts to anything more than empty words”.

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Earlier, Fraser, Mid Scotland and Fife region MSP, described the licensing scheme as an “existential threat” to the tourism industry in Scotland that “could see the shedding of thousands of jobs”.

McLennan, East Lothian MSP, while moving his amendment said that the Tories were asking for a pause to a scheme live date that has been open since October 2022.

He added: “A scheme that has been open since October 2022, a scheme in which 7763 applications have been received and growing and where 4708 applications have been issued. “So long, and this is a really important point, so long as existing hosts submit a licence application by the 1st of October there is nothing to fear.

“Let me say to operators out there, loud and clear, your local authority will work with you to be able to process the application.”

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Griffin, Central Scotland region MSP, attempting to move the motion remotely, said that the licensing scheme in its current form is “completely unnecessary for large parts of the country”.

He said that Scottish Labour MSPs voted against the scheme in 2021 and feel it still needs to be reformed, adding they supported the Tories' call for a delay, a detailed review of the “badly drafted” regulations and changes to be made.

Later, Johnson (above), Edinburgh Southern MSP, moved the Scottish Labour motion, claiming that the legislation was supposed to tackle AirBnBs but “we didn’t need to tackle BnBs, but that’s precisely what these measures do.”

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Willie Rennie, speaking for the LibDems, said the party would be supporting the Tory motion, because the “burden is too high for many” and claimed the scheme would lead to a “major hole” in Scottish tourism.

SNP MSP Ben Macpherson, Edinburgh Northern and Leith,  intervened to point out that LibDem members on Edinburgh City Council have been supportive of applying regulations to the “greatest extent”. He asked what dialogue had been had between LibDem councillors and MSPs.

Rennie replied: “There has been dialogue because we recognise there are different issues in different parts of the country.”

Ariane Burgess (below), Scottish Greens MSP for the Highlands and Islands, pointed to the "substantial consultation" that had taken place before the legislation was passed.

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She told the chamber: "I recognise a heated debate about short-term lets, I recognise that the Tories have picked a side of that debate, but what I don’t accept is that we should set aside those community voices crying out for change.

"Rural communities have been placed under huge pressure by the rapid expansion of this sector, it is time to restore some balance."

Speaking after the debate, she said that communities across Scotland will feel "betrayed" by Scottish Labour MSPs for "lining up with the Tories" in an attempt to halt the regulations. 

“They are at odds with their own colleagues in Labour-run Edinburgh Council, who have said that they support sticking to the October 1st deadline," she said. 

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"They are also at odds with the Labour government in Wales which is developing a licensing scheme that follows the Scottish model.
“There is no direction and no principle behind these attempts to block our progress. It is opposition for its own sake."

Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC), said after the debate that MSPs "fail to understand the legislation". 

"The Scottish Government doesn’t need a repeat of the DRS fiasco on its hands, but it is repeating the same mistakes, blindly forcing through incompetent legislation," she said.

"It must listen to the voice of small business and pause this disastrous scheme now, enabling a much-needed rethink before it is too late."

McLennan’s amendment, which focused on “supporting and encouraging” outstanding applications, passed with 65 votes for Yes, 51 for No, and 0 abstentions.

Scottish Labour’s amendment fell because McLennan's passed. 

The National: Angela ConstanceFraser's motion, amended by McLennan's changes, passed with 62 votes for Yes, 54 for No, and 0 abstentions. 

Overall, 30 Tory MSPs, 17 Labour MSPs, five SNP MSPs and two LibDems voted against. A further 13 MSPs did not vote on the motion. 

The SNP MSPs who voted against included Justice Secretary Angela Constance (above), Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth, Fergus Ewing, Christine Grahame and Clare Adamson.

It's understood that Constance and Gilruth did not intend to vote against the Scottish Government motion. 

Jackie Baillie was the only Scottish Labour MSP to vote in favour of the final amended motion but raised a point of order after the vote stating that she meant to vote against.