FLAT REFUSAL?

Owners will need planning permission for short-lets such as Airbnb

Flats on the banks of the Leven in Balloch and Derek Mackay, Finance Secretary.

By Democrat reporter

Airbnb has been lobbying behind the scenes to stave off tighter regulations for short-term lets in Scotland, documents obtained by The Ferret investigative journalism bureau have revealed.

The online lodging firm claims to add almost £1.5 million a day to the Scottish economy. But critics say the rapid growth in short-term letting is exacerbating a housing crisis, causing rising levels of anti-social behaviour and enabling some landlords to evade tax.

As MSPs at Holyrood consider a new planning bill that could give councils more powers to regulate landlords using Airbnb, documents from the Scottish Government show the firm has had extensive contacts with senior government ministers and civil servants.

The Scottish Parliament’s lobbying register also shows that a public relations firm hired by Airbnb, Halogen, has met 28 times since March 2018 with MSPs, ministers and special advisers to discuss the company’s policy positions or the wider short-term letting sector.

Andy Wightman MSP, housing spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, has tabled an amendment to the planning bill which is “designed to provide clarity and certainty to the circumstances in which planning consent needs to be sought” for property owners throughout the country.

It would give councils throughout Scotland the power to require property owners to apply for “change of use” planning permission before they can rent out whole dwellings on short-term letting platforms, such as Airbnb. It would not apply to people who rent out a room, or part of a property they live in themselves.

If it were to become law, councils would be able to enact their own policies to manage short-term lets.

But lobbyists acting for Airbnb have written to senior ministers including Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay, to argue for a delay in regulation. They also proposed that new rules should only apply to one part of central Edinburgh.

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