LABOUR and LibDem MSPs are hoping for fast “political gain” by opposing the short-term lets licensing scheme, Scotland’s Housing Minister has said.

Speaking to the Holyrood Weekly podcast, Paul McLennan accused opposition MSPs of joining forces with the Tories for their own political ends, rather than listening to local communities.

The Scottish Tories forced a vote on the scheme in Holyrood on Wednesday ahead of the looming October 1 deadline calling for a year-long delay, but their efforts failed despite support from both Scottish Labour and LibDem MSPs.

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Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and 16 of his MSPs backed the Tories' bid to extend the scheme start date, as did two LibDems Willie Rennie and Liam McArthur, as well as 30 Tories.

Five SNP MSPs voted against the Scottish Government motion, but it is understood that four did so accidentally, with only Fergus Ewing intentionally rebelling.

On this week’s episode of The National’s Holyrood Weekly podcast, McLennan took aim at Scottish Labour’s position as being “all over the place”, particularly in Edinburgh.

He raised the incident of Labour Edinburgh council leader Cammy Day (below) calling for an extension to the licensing scheme to be brought in being almost immediately “shot down” by his colleagues forcing him to change position.

The National: “The whole council group in Edinburgh, just as recently as February said, they wanted to move this on and get this passed and get legislation in place and to get to the first of October.

“So Labour are all over the place, particularly in Edinburgh, they’ve changed their tune.

“At recent conferences they’ve talked about their views on short term lets and again they’ve backtracked and I think they were being political, no more than that.”

At Scottish Labour’s conference in February, MSP Mark Griffin, who put forward a motion calling for BnB’s, house swaps, those renting out a room and purpose built accommodation to be removed from the scheme, called for tougher action on short-term lets.

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Griffin had called out the £20 million a year lost in tax breaks to operators like AirBnBs, as many register to pay Non-Domestic Rates rather than council tax, with many not having to pay so in full.

He also touted the introduction of a short-term let control zone in Edinburgh at the conference.

McLennan said Labour’s approach to short-term lets was another change in position where they believed they can get “short-term political gain”.

“I mentioned in the debate yesterday about some Edinburgh groups such as Cockburn Association, PLACE and other residents groups actually supporting the government’s view,” McLennan (below) added.

The National:

The minister said Labour MSPs didn't answer his question on the "strong support" from Edinburgh residents for the scheme. 

He added: “That’s something that I don’t think that a lot of Labour MSPs picked up on yesterday because they couldn’t answer the question when I asked them their response to what was said by, particularly, Cockburn Association and PLACE.

“Who knows what the position is, councillors and MSPs are in different positions as it is just now.”

McLennan also took aim at the LibDems. Rennie (below) had said during the debate 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.

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The Housing Minister pointed to the LibDems in Edinburgh’s reaction to Day’s statement calling for a delay. “They backed what the Scottish Government was doing and said they didn’t want the position changed as of October 1st,” he said.

“What Willie Rennie was saying from the MSP point of view, but what his councillors on the ground are telling him is something completely different.

“So it’s kind of highlighted the short-term political gain they think they can get from this.

“And in terms of that position, councillors in Edinburgh have said that they want things in place from the 1st of October, and it's time that MSPs listen to that.”

The National: Willie Rennie

In response to McLennan’s comments, Rennie (above) said that there’s “nothing inconsistent” about saying the solution for Edinburgh may not be the “right one” for Fife or the Highlands.

“As with other issues afflicting Scotland right now, the issue is rigid SNP ministers determined to dictate everything from the centre,” he said.

"I have expressed my support for measures to constrain the growth of short-term lets in areas where numbers are out of control.

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“That makes it doubly frustrating that the minister seems keener on turning this issue into a political football than he does on ensuring that there is a workable system in place which can command public support across the country.

"There needs to be far more flexibility for local authorities to put in place the systems that work for them."

Scottish Labour have been contacted for comment.

The second episode of season two of Holyrood Weekly will be available on The National’s website, Spotify and the Omny streaming platform on Friday.