ASSC criticises Scottish household mixing rules

UK: The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers [ ASSC ] has criticised the Scottish government’s policy on household mixing, claiming that it was insufficiently clear about its applicability to holiday homes.

The trade association claims it was initially told that holiday homes were exempt from new regulations.

Scotland implemented a ban on the mixing of households this past week in an effort to fight surging Covid-19 cases. The ban was first enforced in the west of Scotland, before later in the month, the nationwide rule of six was applied.

The ASSC claimed it had received assurances from the Scottish government on Tuesday before the restrictions announcement, saying that it would not apply to self-catering accommodation. However, on a radio broadcast later in the week, the national clinical director said restrictions would apply to holiday homes, while ASSC was still receiving correspondence that it would not.

Tourism secretary Fergus Ewing has stated that new regulations would in fact apply to the sector. Ewing confirmed that this was a U-turn from its prior position, which was changed following consideration of health priorities.

A spokesperson for the government said: “The position is clear and has been widely shared: only one household is permitted to share self-catering accommodation. Stakeholders have been informed, and guidance to operators is in progress.”

Short-term rentals in Scotland have already seen the impact of this change, with claims that at least £1.1 million worth of cancellations had been carried out in the last ten days. With £70 million worth of bookings remaining in the year, the ASSC fears that an additional lack of clarity may harm the struggling industry.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the ASSC, said: “The ASSC wholeheartedly supports Scottish government’s efforts to protect public health, and in particular, we welcome your efforts to promote and maintain a constructive dialogue with industry during these challenging circumstances. The events of the past 48 hours have been incredibly disappointing, and we hope that we can work with you and your officials to resolve them for the benefit of our members and Scotland’s vital tourist economy.”

Sarah Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, added to the criticism, saying: “The Scottish government needs to urgently reverse this decision, which not only impacts on tourism businesses but will also have a knock-on impact on visitor attractions, local businesses and restaurants and pubs. If the government won’t reverse the decision, they need to guarantee financial support for every business impacted or quite simply, this decision will cost jobs.”