The Landlords’ Revolt

There comes a time when enough is enough and the vicious repression of the Pogrom Parliament will not be tolerated. This time has come.

We will not be repressed by the Woke Jock jokes of Holyrood with their ‘rules; and ‘legislation’. We will NOT be brow-beaten into safety checks and we will NOT fill in a form!

This week at least thirty of us took to the streets to denounce this legislative carnage that will almost definitely lead to the End of the Edinburgh Festival and the end of humanity as we know it.

What the Scottish Government don’t seem to recognise is that we are the glue that holds the very fabric of Edinburgh together. We literally hold the future of Scotland in our hands. Do this, this …. ‘form’ as you call it, and we will leave, we will pack up and leave! And then what will become of Dundas Street? The Dome will be empty. It’s no exaggeration to say that Stag weekends will have nowhere to go, and ordinary people may return to live in central Edinburgh.

At a stirring rally of the OLOE (Oppressed Landlords of Edinburgh) last night this poem was read out by our very own ‘Wat Tyler’, the inspirational Magnus Linklater who is prepared to go to jail for his beliefs:

“When Holyrood came for the Air BnB Superhosts,
I remained silent;
I was not a Superhost.

When they locked up the Bed & Breakfast owners,
I remained silent;
I was not a Bed & Breakfast owner.

When they came for the self-catering lobbyists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a self-catering lobbyists.

When they came for the landlords,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a landlord.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out…”

To cheers our own redoubtable Louise Dickins (who is a woman) served a simple Sancerre and dips and we all agreed that we would carry on the good fight. It was agreed that our campaign was winning over hearts and minds across the capital from Cumberland to Rose Street. Our key boxes will have to be pried from one’s own cold, dead hands.



Comments (55)

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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    I’m shocked that you’ve published this kind of message. Why? Have already seen it and am profoundly disappointed in Bella. Is this a hoax?

    1. Iain Lennox says:

      Cathie, it seems, doesn’t “do” irony !

      1. John Semple says:

        Or maybe Cathie is a supreme ironist?

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Cathie Lloyd, I rather think it is satire. Which apparently can almost be as distressing as poetry.

    3. Laurence Davies says:

      Cathie, this is a parody of the complaints by a small mob of landlords and chancer unionists who turned up outside Holyrood yesterday to demonstrate against licensing rentals. I’d say cheer up, it’s just a wee pack of self-interested loudmouth whingers, but some of their placards are truly vile. They were equating the new regulations with a pogrom. Now for the last 130 yearsor so (date from the Oxford English Dictionary online), the word has meant a massacre of Jews. What a despicable comparison: how nasty, how ignorant, how vile.

      Some of the other placards bore the claim that the changes would frighten off tourists: you can just imagine the reaction of tourists from other European or North American countries to landlords having the gall to bandy such words about.

    4. John Mooney says:

      Cathy, is your comment meant to be a”Parody” if not I am amazed at your thought process with regard to this article, it is MEANT to be ironic and succeeds perfectly in showing this shower of clowns for what they are!

      1. Doghouse Reilly . says:

        And all very clever I’m sure. I watched these guys close up during the consultation process. Entitled, smug and sure of their own importance.

        The problem with laughing at them is it leaves the field open. They get to say what they like. No one is pointing out the problems with serious and organised crime linked to private and short term letting. No one is pointing to the fraud against vulnerable folk desperate for a home and no one is talking about the unregulated, unsafe and overcrowded shot term lets on places like gum tree.

        I’m sure there are many responsible operators in the STL sector but by trying to undermine proper regulation they are leaving the door open and providing cover for criminals.

        That, for me at least is no laughing matter.

        1. True, there’s much more serious issues at play – including the housing crisis, social cleansing, Rachman Landlordism, and Over Tourism .. will return to these themes and issues soon and welcome input on them

          1. 230907 says:

            How does penalising my neebor, Molly Maxwell, for renting out her spare room to holdaymakers help sort ‘the housing crisis, social cleansing, Rachman Landlordism, and Over Tourism’ in Dumgal?

        2. 230907 says:

          ‘No one is pointing out the problems with serious and organised crime linked to private and short term letting. No one is pointing to the fraud against vulnerable folk desperate for a home and no one is talking about the unregulated, unsafe and overcrowded shot term lets on places like gum tree.’

          Really? And even if that were true, and all that wrongdoing was going unremarked, how does that justify not ‘leaving the field open’ for protesters to ‘get to say what they like’? Are some citizens not to be allowed to protest against government decisions they disagree with without being mocked and vilified?

          1. Doghouse Reilly . says:

            To be clear, no one has said that folk aren’t allowed to protest, all I’ve done is asked for a bit of balance. And those things are true and have been reported regularly over the years.

            As to your neighbour, I’m sure she’s an honest and responsible operator. But others are not and if you want to eliminate the crooks and the harm they do honest folk have to accept a degree of oversight. That’s why you require a similar licence to drive a taxi or clean windows, to protect the public from crooks.

          2. 230908 says:

            ‘…if you want to eliminate the crooks and the harm they do honest folk have to accept a degree of oversight.’

            Two points: the government already has extensive oversight of Molly’s cottage industry. She happily accepts its regular oversight and inspection on matters relating to planning permission, insurance, fire safety, gas safety, food safety, fairness and equality, smoking, etc. This is not about oversight; this is about imposing a cost that’s intended to deter her from renting out her spare room to holidaymakers (who mostly can’t afford hotel and self-catering prices) so that it will be available instead to alleviate the problem of homelessness.

            The regulations are flawed and their implementation should be paused until the flaws can be ironed out. That’s what that ‘shower of clowns’, that ‘wee pack of [‘nasty’, ‘ignorant’, and ‘vile’] self-interested loudmouth whingers’, were protesting outside the Scottish parliament the other other day.

            More precisely, what they were protesting was:

            a) the truncated nature of the consultation process, which didn’t follow the usual three-month practice but which the Scottish government instead, going against its own best practice advice, condensed into little more than four weeks;
            b)the disregard that the Scottish government has shown for the impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality sector and especially the small cottage industries within that sector, which is still struggling to recover financially from the drastic loss of income that the various coronavirus restrictions entailed;

            c) the lack of a Business Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) to accompany consultation, which again is at odds with the Scottish government’s own Better Regulation principles and best practice (As the Law Society of Scotland has pointed out, the omission of a BRIA at the time of the consultation ‘makes it challenging for fully informed representations to be made.);

            d) the fact that the Scottish Government’s Short-Term Let Delivery Group did not suggest that B&Bs would be included in the scope of the regulations, which has meant that specific issues relating to B&Bs and unintended consequences of the regulations for B&Bs have not been considered at all in the framing of those regulations.

            The Scottish government also seems to have disregarded or dismissed the challenges that the Scottish Government plans will place on local authorities, many of whom did not support the proposals in the consultation process, and the financial impact this will have on already stretched resources. As I’ve said below, the local government down here in Dumgal have reluctantly agreed to comply with the directive handed down from on high, by a national government for which we did not vote, but have worked to ensure that the license fees it levies are only sufficient only to cover the cost of implementing the directive, thereby minimising the additional cost to local businesses.

            My second point is that any government action to ‘eliminate the crooks and the harm that they do’, which disregards the fact that ‘honest folk’ are also caught up and penalised by that action, is fundamentally unjust.

            As the thirty or so protesters who’ve been demonised and vilified in this article and subsequent comments were saying, the implementation of the ill-considered regulations should be paused until its flaws have been ironed out.

      2. Cathie Lloyd says:

        I’m relieved to see the above comments. No, irony is not something I relate to easily, what passes for reality in 2023 is too close to that. Anyway I’ll breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks everyone.

        1. John Monro says:

          Hi Cathy, reasonable mistake to make in our post-satire age. In regard to the private property for profit space this is what happens when governments and local authorities (i.e. communities or societies) fail in their moral duties to ensure warm, safe, affordable, appropriate and sufficient housing for their fellow citizens and their children. It’s a human right to have use of such either by purchase or by rental. All sovereign societies that have followed such neoliberal capitalist dogma are now suffering the predictable effects of such ethical abandonment. This little satirical article illuminates a mere microcosm of the massive social ills that are occurring in so many countries.

  2. DAVID SMART says:

    When you go will yi send back
    yer forums fae America
    Edinburgh NO MORE
    Festival NO MORE
    Landlords NO MORE.

    1. Wullie says:

      Cheerio, Cheerio, Cheerio!
      Get a job.

  3. Wul says:

    See ye!

    Mind the door disnae skelp yer erse on the way oot.

  4. Mikey Pops says:

    I get the satire and sentiment, but to trivialise this issue is also doing a disservice to the many small B&B owners throughout rural Scotland who are deciding to close rather than spending thousands to meet unnecessarily stringent and bureaucratic legislation.

    This policy is flawed and is going to cause a crisis in the tourism trade as there will be a shortage of B&B beds, which will drive more people to visit in Campervans.

    I beg the SNP to consult again with the tourism industry before pressing on with this legislation.

    1. John says:

      Genuine question here – can you explain how this is going to cost B&B owners thousands of pounds to gain registration?

      1. Mikey Pops says:

        I work in the Tourism sector and before I am dismissed as being Anti-SNP, I should add that I have been an SNP member since 1992, an SNP Councillor, and an Election Agent for several high-profile SNP MPs and MSPs. So it really pains me that the SNP are steamrolling on with this disastrous policy at a time when the party cannot afford to be adding to their recent list of misjudged policies.

        To understand the issues in full, I would direct you to the following articles:

        But if you haven’t time to digest all of this, the basic problem is captured in this quote from the first article above:

        “Mandatory Conditions for the licensing scheme will now include meeting Repairing Standard Legislation and EPC legislation, despite B&Bs being previously exempt from both pieces of legislation. This is yet another unintended consequence of the regulations, with operators potentially being liable for up to £5,000 in order to meet the potential minimum standards of EPCs, should they be introduced in Scotland (with a requirement to meet a minimum EPC rating of D or C for a property to be rented out, or up to £5000 spent to improve the rating).

      2. 230907 says:

        According to the City of Edinburgh Council’s new licensing tariff, a homesharing license will cost the traditional B&B owner £120 per person for the first year, and £360 per person for the next three years. That is, if your home has 2 double rooms available for holiday lets, a license will cost you £480 in the first year and £4,320 every three years (i.e. £1,440 per year) thereafter.

        1. 230907 says:

          Down here in Dumgall, a homesharing license for up to six people costs a flat rate of only £275.88 in the first year and £189.45 to renew every three years thereafter. But Edinburgh’s ay bin expensive.

          1. John says:

            Follow up to my comment – the costs would be a lot lower than £120 per month outside Edinburgh.
            While I appreciate no one will welcome any increased costs will the additional costs put tourist’s off that much to threaten the viability of the business?
            If the business viability is threatened by trying to make it energy efficient does this not raise questions about the business itself?
            Is this not a response to proposed legislation changes that we have heard down the years?

          2. 230907 says:

            Rumour has it that Dumgal Council (which has, over the past six months gone from being led by a SNP/Labour coalition through a SNP/Liberal Democrat coalition to a Conservative/Independent Coalition, and which is opposed to the scheme, not least because it’s been imposed on us by a Holyrood government that we, the Dumgal electorate, didn’t vote for) deliberately set the licensing tariff at the minimum levels required to merely cover the cost of administering the scheme, thereby rendering it a pointless tax.

            That said, homelessness in Dumgal increased by about a third in 2022-23, to a total of 660 across the country, 97 of which were the result of landlords ending tenancies. Penalising traditional B&B providers in Dumgal for renting their spare rooms to holidaymakers rather than to homeless people will really make a difference to this local housing crisis.

        2. Mikey Pops says:

          Yes, and that’s just the direct costs of the license, it doesn’t factor in the cost of upgrades transpiring from the EPC legislation that is being proposed.

          When I was up in Orkney this year, I visited 6 B&B owners and everyone was critical of the legislation and they could all name B&B owners that they knew who were planning to close rather than bother with yet more legislation and overheads. One B&B owner told me that an estimated 100 B&B beds would be lost on Orkney through closures prompted by this legislation.

          These aren’t absent landlords, these are small businesses run by local people. I anticipate that the demise of the small B&Bs will result in large hotel chains exploiting the void in supply at a time when Scotland’s tourism industry is already bursting at the seams trying to cope with the demand.

          If the Scottish Government would just grant an exemption to B&Bs with 3 or fewer rooms it would be a welcome concession. And before anyone makes assumptions, I don’t run a B&B.

          1. Doghouse Reilly says:

            So is there a reason why B&B operators should be exempt from the task of reducing carbon emissions? Social housing tenants are required to meet an EPC rating of B. They may have to foot a bill of £15k per house to get there and it will go on the rent.

          2. John says:

            The EPC will be an upfront cost but will surely lead to reduced energy costs which will recoup the outlay over a period of time.
            We may all have to comply to more stringent EPC requirements in future.
            The legislation will by my calculation come to about £120 per month. (for context my wife and I stayed in a very basic 1 bedroom air b&b at £80 a night on a weekday in a seaside resort.
            Ultimately if there is no concession will the b&b proprietors not just have to raise prices to absorb the additional costs as other businesses have to?

          3. Mikey Pops says:

            B&Bs are closing over this, the Scottish Government can try burying its head in the sand but that is not going to change this fact.

            Over the next few years, there will be a crisis in the Scottish tourism industry when there isn’t enough accommodation to cope with the influx of visitor

          4. Susan Smith says:

            True B&B operators ( who are living in the accommodation at the same time as their guests are renting it) do not need to have an EPC certificate, as that is not secondary letting


    2. Susan Smith says:

      B&B’s already have to comply with food hygiene and fire regulations – why will registering drive existing operators out of business, if they have been complying with these and other regulations that may require them to have planning permission to be a b&b?

      1. Mikey Pops says:

        There might me be misunderstanding about the legislation amongst the B&Bs that I work with, but the STL legislation is universally unpopular. Given that many small B&Bs are run by people close to retiral age, and the income is modest for a 3 Bed B&B, many are deciding that the hassle and cost of applying for planning permission is not worth the effort.

        I am just asking that the Scottish Government actually listens to the opinions of the people who will have to pay for the policy being forced on them. A simple exemption of B&Bs with 3 letting rooms would be very welcomed. Currently, it is my understanding that 3 room B&Bs with boosts resident in property will have to go through planning permission with all the cost that entails.

        “B&Bs are not listed as excluded accommodation at schedule 1. Guest houses are excluded (para 1(d) of sch. 1). Change of use from a house (class 9 in the Use Classes Order) to a guest houses (class 7) generally requires planning permission. So the exclusion applies to properties that have planning permission to operate as a guest house. A house (class 9) can be used to offer bed and breakfast without planning permission where no more than two bedrooms are used for this purpose or, in the case of premises having less than four bedrooms, only one bedroom is used for that purpose.”

  5. Wul says:

    It does seem to be unnecessary to include “traditional” old-school style B&B accommodation in the new regulations. As far as I am aware, this type of tourist accommodation (with the home-owner living under the same roof as the guests and making their breakfast) has not normally caused problems for locals or distorted the local housing market. Maybe I am wrong though?

    Andy Wightman has a piece on this issue on his “Land Matters” web site.

    1. 230908 says:

      Precisely, Wul. The regulations are flawed. They lump folk like my neebor, Molly, a retired nurse, who does B&B to supplement her pension, in with thirty or so gangsters and organised criminals, chancer unionists, and ‘superhosts’ who were protesting outside the Scottish parliament the other day there. Where’s the justice in that?

  6. Edinburgh Party Flat says:

    Orwell was better at making the idea that all property is theft into a comedy. Disappointing that the author has taken the piss out of a serious subject – take the piss out of Airbnb’s instead of B’n’B’s, please.

  7. SleepingDog says:

    Those who claim capitalism’s ultimate right to exploit property for maximum personal gain, older people in empty nests finding ways to stay on the family home, unscrupulous and shady providers of sub-standard accommodation, climate-emergency-denying conspiracy theorists: all will find in common fears that registering and submitting to government regulation will open their doors to their surplus accommodation being requisitioned by the State to house climate refugees. It’s the kind of scenario that even occasionally appears in BBC primetime drama, so I think we can take it as well understood, even if it is largely unspoken and a denial of the standard ‘business-as-usual’ ideology of irreality.

    1. 230908 says:

      I fancy (I can’t really know, for I don’t have insight into other people’s hearts) that all of those you mention are motivated by a desire to dispose of their surplus wealth, whether in the form of land, labour, or capital, privately, in accordance with their own wishes, rather than by a desire to have the state dispose of it publicly, in accordance with its ruling party’s conception of the common good. According to capitalism and its scientists, the human animal is naturally predisposed to do this, to hoard rather than to share. Socialism and its scientists take the contrary view. You pays your money…

  8. Mark Howitt says:

    In my opinion, while the legislation is flawed in some regards (so, like all legislation) it is necessary. We are constantly told by those within the short-term let sector that it welcomes regulation “but not this regulation”. However, we – the public – are never actually told what regulation they do want. Without that information, it sounds like a sector that doesn’t want to be regulated.

    They don’t help their case when the likes of Louise Dickins complains on Linkedin that short-term let owners should not be referred to as landlords, when under any dictionary definition that is exactly what they are. Or Sheila Averbuch – one of the protesters outside Parliament last Tuesday – who has “a couple of self-catering properties in [Edinburgh’s] New Town and the Old Town” who explains that “these are not places that people would want domestic housing”. Still getting my head round that one …

    1. 230911 says:

      What the sector wants is regulation that’s just (that doesn’t penalise those operators who aren’t part of the problem that the regulation’s intended to address). This needs to be negotiated with the sector rather than dictated by the regulator, which is why the sector (and several local authorities) wants its implementation to be paused until that negotiation can take place and its injustices ironed out.

      1. LF18 says:

        Well said 230911.

        It’s the same with the Deposit Return Scheme. The policy’s aims were important and admirable, but the implementation of the policy was flawed as it burdened small-scale breweries (who are not the producers of the litter problem) with the same regulations as mass producers.

        I fully support the aims of the STL and DRS policies. I recognise the need to tackle the issue of unregulated AirBNB rentals and Scotland’s horrendous litter problem, but I work with lots of small business owners and I know that the Scottish Government has been making a lot of enemies by not listening to their legitimate concerns.

        These are fundamentally progressive policies, but the Scottish Government needs to keep a focus on what the problems are that they are trying to resolve.

        1. 230911 says:

          Yep, I’m with you there. There are problems that need to be sorted, and regulation is required towards sorting those problems. But the regulatory regime the Scottish government has come up with is flawed insofar as it’s produced injustice, and the manner in which it’s sought to establish that regime is itself unjust (‘bad government’) insofar as it’s undemocratic (it didn’t sufficiently involve all those who have a stake in deciding that regime).

      2. In what other areas do you ‘negotiate with the sector’?

        1. 230911 says:

          Any area of our public affairs whatsoever. Surely negotiation with and among all those who have a stake in the outcome of a decision is essential to the democracy of the decision-making process in any area of our public affairs. How else can government legislation be a democratic expression of the general will unless it’s arrived at by negotiation among all the particular interests involved?

          1. I’d like you to give some examples of where this happens? The Landlords at case here have distorted the whole housing market and entire neighbourhoods and communities. They are not some neutral player here. Their actions for profit effect society. In this context why should they be asked their permission if its okay for regulation to be introduced?

          2. For example you say: “Surely negotiation with and among all those who have a stake in the outcome of a decision is essential to the democracy of the decision-making process in any area of our public affairs.” But who is ‘negotiating’ with people who cannot afford housing or whose communities have been massively affected? No one is doing so.

          3. 230911 says:

            It doesn’t happen anywhere in our republic; that’s the problem. I can think of no example in which our public affairs are governed in this way.

            Certainly, landlords aren’t neutral players in the matter; they have a particular interest in how we regulate the short-term letting of their properties. But there are no neutral players in the real world; everyone has some economic or ideological interest in how we regulate any market.

            The political trick for all the interested parties involved in the matter to negotiate a regulatory regime that none will deem ‘perfect’ (from the point of view their own particular interests) but that everyone ‘can live with’ pragmatically. The role of any democratic government is to bring all the interested parties together and facilitate a free and equal negotiation between them. In this instance at least, the Scottish government has failed to fulfil this role.

            Pragmatism states that the ‘right’ answer to any problem is just that answer in which the various competing interests acquiesce as the best deal they can negotiate. It thus avoids the ‘curst conceit o’ bein’ richt’ that plagues our public affairs.

          4. 230912 says:

            Basically, what I’m advocating as a form of good government is the cooperative movement’s pragmatic model of ‘collective bargaining’, whereby voluntary agreements are reached by a process of negotiation between equals as an alternative to compulsory obligations imposed by the winners in some competitive confrontation between unequal powers. Any collective bargaining agreement reached by these negotiations then functions as a social contract, which binds the various and diverse interests of their participants democratically into a single community of interest.

            Of course, this model is useless for anyone who’s more interested in frustrating rather than forging democratic unions and in fostering rather than overcoming confrontations.

          5. Doghouse Reilly says:

            There was a cross sectoral group that look at the proposals and made recommendations to the Scottish government. The folk now making g a fuss that no one listened to them were members of the group until they walked out en mass because they weren’t getting their way.

          6. 230915 says:

            I don’t hold any brief for the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers, the Scottish B&B Association, Airbnb, or the Short Term Accommodation Association, the only syndicates who members have a material interest in the outcome of the Group’s business, who resigned from the Scottish government’s Short Term Lets Guidance And Implementation Stakeholder Working Group at its meeting on August 4th, 2021, on the grounds that, after four years of deliberation, these syndicates felt that their views had not been properly considered. The government for its part regretted that these syndicates had not provided viable alternative proposals to address issues of concern to city residents (as if that was their role on the Working Group) and spun the resignations as ‘sour grapes’. And I don’t particularly care whether the government’s policy will have a deleterious effect on the Scottish economy or not.

            My beef is with the ‘nationalisation’ of the issues of concern to some urban residents and the subsequent imposition of a punitive tax on some innocent rural cottage industries, like the one pursued by my neighbour, Molly. To say that Molly and her like all over the country should be punished for supplementing her income by letting her spare room to visitors who can’t afford hotel prices in order to deter unscrupulous Edinburgh landlords from renting their properties to tourists is unjust and absurd.

            And to say, as Mark does below, that ‘[u]nfortunately you can’t have legislation that only applies to bad actors’ and that we should just accept the harm that this legislation does to people like Molly as necessary and unavoidable ‘collateral damage’ just isn’t good enough. That harm could easily be avoided by locally exempting operators like Molly from the licensing requirements or, at least, delaying the imposition of that requirement locally until operators like Molly can either afford the additional cost of meeting those requirements or else wind up their businesses without the additional costs associated with breaching the contracts they have with existing bookings.

          7. Doghouse Reilly . says:

            It is quite wrong to cast this as purely and urban issue. That aside, I was at the meeting you mention, the purpose of the group was unquestionably to examine, test and improve the proposed scheme, the reps from the secondary letting section never engaged in good faith and the walk out was stage managed for effect.

            It was, as the minister described it. They simply did not accept either that there was a harm to be addressed or that they should be subject to statutory regulation.

            They still don’t.

          8. Mikey Pops says:

            Well said 230915. I hope someone in the Scottish Government is reading this. I’ve tried my contacts in the SNP, but their lack of reaction has me questioning whether I will be renewing my membership after 31 years.

          9. 230916 says:

            It is indeed wrong to cast the issue of the inflationary pressure that tourism places on property prices and rents as a purely urban one. I’m saying that it’s wrong a) to treat it as a uniform national issue rather than a nuanced set of largely incommensurable local issues and b) to deal with that issue in blanket ways that don’t discriminate locally between ‘guilty’ and ‘innocent’ classes of short-let operators.

        2. Niemand says:

          It must be said that the current government has a reputation for not meaningfully consulting and thus getting important legislation wrong again and again. It also has a reputation for being incompetent when it tries to implement things. This reputation is borne out by the evidence. Robin McAlpine’s blog is very good on this: it really does matter. It is surely not at all unusual for governments to consult widely and fully before implementing complex and far-reaching new regulations and laws, not least to iron out deficiencies and unfairness? People slag the House of Lords for good political reasons, but it does have a purpose and actually does a decent job in scrutinising the detail of policy. What is the process for this that poses a check on Holyrood legislation?

          1. 230912 says:

            Yep; the issue of democratic checks and balances is one that’s close to my heart.

            And, yep; virtually the only check (outside of the courts) on the power of the executive branch of the Scottish government was the notional unlikelihood of any one-party dominance of the Scottish parliament, given the election of the latter by a system of proportional representation, which (it was believed) would virtually guarantee government by a coalition of interests rather than by any single party interest.

            However, since the current institutional arrangements have failed to deliver the checks and balances on executive power that they promised to provide, we need to look at resetting those arrangements to make them more fit for the purpose of doing so.

            This could be done by creating a second chamber at Holyrood that would have a veto on the decisions made by the current unicameral parliament under the direction of the ruling party.

            One approach might be to create a small second chamber (perhaps of 30 members) – a senate, as it were – that is nationally elected on strictly proportional lines, using a different voting system from the lower house so as to create a (likely) check on the power of the government party or coalition in the lower house. This is what happens with the Australian Senate. A bolder reform might even adopt sortition, selecting a kind of ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ chamber by lot.

            Another approach might be to use a second chamber as a means of providing local governments with an authoritative voice at the centre, thereby putting the brakes on further centralisation and ensuring that the local impact and implementation of national policies are taken into account. An increasing number of constitutions recognise the autonomy of local government. The German Grundgesetz (Basic Law) was the first to recognise local self-government in a formal constitution. This localist second chamber again need not be large. It might even be indirectly elected or delegated, consisting of elected councillors chosen by their colleagues.

            As well as resetting its current institutional arrangements to enhance its checks on executive power, Holyrood also, in any case, needs to revive its original commitment to power-sharing with communities and to subsidiarity. Devolved government in Scotland has moved a long way from the renewed positive relationship between Scottish central and local government that its architects envisaged. The 1999 report of the McIntosh Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament included the Council of Europe’s Charter of Local Self-Government as an appendix as a ‘ready and appropriate source of material’. Over two decades later, Andy Wightman’s bill (which sought to incorporate the European Charter into law) was passed unanimously in March 2021 by the Scottish parliament, but the Supreme Court declared its legislation incompetent and referred it back as such to the Scottish parliament later that year. The Scottish parliament has since done nothing to rectify its flaws. (The Supreme Court is itself a useful check on the executive power of the Scottish government.)

            But while the incorporation of the European Charter into law would be an important step, insofar as it would revive the ideas of subsidiarity, mutual respect, and parity of esteem between central and local government in Scotland, which were to be the cornerstones of the anticipated new relationship, such an act would merely be symbolic and wouldn’t by itself alter the relationship significantly. Much more is required. We need institutional reform to provide a check on over-weening government and provide balance to the Scottish constitution.

      3. Mark Howitt says:

        As I say, it is my opinion that the legislation is flawed. It is unclear why bed & breakfasts have been brought into its remit. And there is an argument for excluding genuine ‘home sharing’ arrangements ie where you rent out a spare room while still living in your house (the original Airbnb arrangement).

        But that’s not what the Saving Self-Catering in Scotland group are pressing for. You only need to take a quick look at LinkedIn to see that these people think that because they run successful short-term letting businesses, they should be exempt from signing up to a regulatory framework that demonstrates that their properties comply with basic standards such as having a gas safety certificate.

        Unfortunately you can’t have legislation that only applies to bad actors.

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