A Modern Day Version of the Highland Clearances

What does the botched PR and lobbying of the Short Term Letting and Landlord crew tell us? Having at first described the modest – and decade-late regulation – as a ‘pogrom’ – one has just described the impact of the legislation as akin to the Highland Clearances. This from the Scottish B and B Association:

Not only is this completely offensive, I think we can be fairly sure it is written by someone with little or no knowledge of Scotland or the Clearances. I mean, sure, landlords were involved with the highland clearances but I think you’ve maybe got your history wrong…

Battle of the B&Bs 1882

I think we can gather a few things from the consistently terrible PR campaign run by various bodies of the landlord lobby such as The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), DickinsEdinburgh and the Scottish B and B Association.

The first is that they have ‘assumed power’, nut not actual power. They have no experience of being told, or asked what to do, and they are shocked at the experience. They reek of entitlement.

Second they have a completely wild sense of how they are perceived in society, which suggests they live in silos of privilege.

Third they can’t really cope with the concept of transparency. They have become very riled about basic issues like having a business and begun to mobilise Tory MSPS in their hysteria …

Fourth, they have a vastly over-inflated sense of their own importance, hence the wild accusations of the consequences of simple regulations causing a devastating impact on Scottish society, variously ‘the whole economy’, the ‘Edinburgh Festival’ (God forbid!) and who would clean the stairs!!! To be fair this is not really their fault. Entire cities and regions are designed around tourism as a single one-dimensional economic driver, and their sense of self-entitlement must be born from the experience of being able to do whatever the **** they wanted for decades. No wonder they’re in shock.

Beyond the comedy of watching the hyperbolic breakdown – and the comedy social media antics – there are some wider political lessons to learn. The first is we need a serious conversation about the tourism economy in Scotland, what it is for, who it benefits and how it can be reclaimed and wholly re-made and re-thought. This is intimately connected to the issues of affordable housing and to land ownership.

The second is that despite the assumed power, and the considerable legal and financial heft amongst their networks, they haven’t won. In fact the very fact of their not being embedded in communities and in many cases being absentee has exposed their relative weakness. It could also prove to be a turning point for progressive or radical forces in Scottish society: reforming political parties, social housing campaigners and volunteers. Could it give some much needed cojones and chutzpa to the Scottish Government? Could it mean and end to the phenomenon of legislation being abandoned when it is shouted-down by a now familiar alliance of political forces? What is the next strata of vested interests and power that needs to be taken on? Because the political lesson to be drawn from the STL legislation is that these interests aren’t as powerful as they (or we) think, and that surfacing and cohering networks of resistance is far more effective than we’d imagine.

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  1. Doghouse Rielly says:

    Fingers crossed Mike. And if you are looking for the next special interest group that needs dragged into a modern world of accountability and consequences, I nominate private landlords generally and buy to let landlords in particular.

    How about we start by recasting the market and the tenancy agreement based on consumer and human rights rather than property rights.

    No more evicting tenants because the landlord wants to sell or move in, or because the have lost their status as a ‘fit and proper person’.

    Just a suggestion.

  2. 230926 says:

    We should indeed have a conversation about tourism, the social and economic impacts it has on neighbourhood, and whether or not the best way to manage those impacts is to regulate the phenomenon centrally.

    Those impacts are not uniform across the country. They are different in Edinburgh from what they are in Newton Stewart, say, on in Montrose or on Tiree. To maximise the beneficial impacts and minimise the harmful impacts of tourism on any neighbourhood, does it make sense to impose a uniform regulation for the larger imagined community of Scotand as a whole, or would it make better sense to localise the regulation to the actual neighbourhoods that feel those impacts? It may make bureaucratic sense to ‘nationalise’ the regulation of tourism, but does it make democratic sense?

    The lumping together of small cottage industries that are based around homesharing and larger, commercial operations that are based on the property portfolio model illustrates the danger inherent in bureacratic regulation, which is insensitive and/or incapable of responding to local democratic needs; it can lead to avoidable injustices like the injustice that traditional B&Bs are experiencing under the new rules. Larger, commercial operations can afford the licensing fees that local authorities are (in some cases) being forced to implement against their wills; small cottage industries can’t.

    As Mark Howitt pointed out on the Landlords’ Revolt thread: ‘Unfortunately you can’t have legislation that only applies to bad actors.’ But you can have local democratic regulation that does so apply.

    1. Prendergast2023 says:

      I agree with you. Regulation OK, but this has been implemented badly and the results of the consultation, say in Edinburgh, have been ignored and the councild did what it wanted to do all along.

      Nobody has a problem with sensible legislation but lumping small and micro businesses together with big multi-property corporations does nothing other than create a feeling that the councils want to wipe out small/micro businesses and only work with large businesses that can drop backhanders to officials and politicians.

  3. Roddie MacLennsn says:

    Excellent piece. Mass tourism is a cancer in the Highlands and has further enriched and empowered the players listed above.
    I was speaking to an Inverness estate agent recently who acted as an agent for a London holiday cottage company. They bought three NC500 properties without the client visiting any of them, all of them well over market price. They paid over £125k for one, a £68k renovation job in Sutherland. A “croft” near Scourie sold recently for over £1 million.
    There are huge areas of the Highlands where the only natives left are elderly, dying and being replaced by retirees or lifestyle experimenters fuelled by the latest wild life programme on BBC “Scotland”. When are local and national governments going to simply say, “enough”, and start controlling property prices and who they can be sold to?
    All the talk about “sustainable communities” is utter bullshit.

    1. Thanks Roddie, the figures you quote in Sutherland are astonishing but sadly not surprising. I completely agree we need control of property prices and ownership laws

      1. Doghouse Reilly says:

        I think ownership laws are already devolved. In fact the old feudal property laws were abolished and replaced in the early 2000s. Property taxes, transaction taxes and the planning system also devolved. We pretty much have what we need except the political will it seems.

    2. 230926 says:

      Aye, keep the migrants oot; eh, Roddie?

    3. Graeme McCormick says:

      Holyrood can legislate that all houses built as social or council houses can only be used as the principal private residence of owners or long term tenants.

      That should release a lot of affordable houses for occupation and their original intended use.

      1. 230927 says:

        Maybe it could. But there seems to be little general will in the country for such legislation.

        That’s the ‘problem’ with democracy, which requires legislation to be an expression of the general will of the *whole* of the people will rather than the private will of any particular class, ideological, material, or majority interest. Passing any legislation for which there is no such consensus would be undemocratic and tyrannical and would result in the parliament breaking the social contract from which it derives its public legitimacy.

        This is just basic republicanism: we can’t have our parliaments and other public decision-making assemblies behaving tyrannically; they have to function as an expression of the people’s liberty as general citizens; otherwise, we might as well be ruled by a private monarch.

  4. Dougie Blackwood says:

    The first thing we need is a transparent land and propery register for ALL land and properties in Scotland. Next we need some control over what properties are used for. It’s sensless to have tourism hot spots where almost all local people are priced out leaving communities without an active population midweek or out of season. Will the proposed legislation make any difference?

    I’m not sure the councils are willing to do any more than extract fees for landlord registration. I’ve been a landlord (good I think) for a number of years and have only heard from the council at registration renewal time. Our councils are a disgrace, they are neither local nor democratic; the cash they get is mostly spent on overblown salaries and consultants. Councillors are then told what can and cannot happen.

    Rant over.

    1. 230926 says:

      Who is this ‘we’ who need to have control over what properties are used for?

      My neebor has lost control over what she uses her spare room for (namely, to supplement her pension by renting it out to hillwalkers and cyclists who mostly can’t afford more expensive accommodation) because our local government have been obliged by the national government to charge her a fee for the privilege of doing so. Her margins are now so fine that she’s going to have to shut up shop at the end of the month. To Dumgall’s credit, it set her license fee at a level that would just cover the cost of collecting it; but that’s still too high for Molly and her typical guests to afford.

      But it’s okay to take control of what folk like Molly use their property for, apparently, because they ‘reek of entitlement’.

      1. Jennie says:

        The fee for a Short Term Let Licence for a couple of spare rooms is less than £400 – less than a week’s B&B income for one double room. Is that really going to put your friend off hosting people in her home?

        1. 230927 says:

          It’s actually less than that in D&G, Jeannie, where the Council has sought to minimise the imposition. It only works out at about £249 a year.

          But it is still an imposition, especially for someone whose business earns them peanuts anyway, even before the lean years of the pandemic. I don’t know, but I imagine Molly might keep going if she had a wee bit longer to recover from the downturn in her bookings and to see how her other recently inflated costs (especially for heat & light and provisions) were going to affect her bottom line. But her margins are already so tight that this additional cost is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

          “It’s not worth it,” she told me last week on the bus. “I’m not a f*ck*ng charity. I’m not ‘doing’ for my guests out the goodness of my heart. They’ll just have to find somewhere else to go.”

          Which they won’t. Most of Molly’s guests were people who were visiting the Solway Coast and Galloway Hills on a shoestring. I doubt many of them could afford anything more than a cheap B&B.

          1. 202310-8 says:

            230927, its no good, the people here are convinced all landlords and STL operators are the spawn of the devil sitting back and exploiting the poor. There is no point in presenting them with facts or evidence they are wrong, or at least over-generalising. To the people here a pensioner letting a spare room is morally equivalent to a corporation with 50 or more properties used as short term lets. The only reason I say anything here is the hope I can convince someone that the world is more complex than they realise

      2. Prendergast2023 says:

        Agreed. It seems as if most of the comments antagonistic to B&Bs are made by people who have never used one and know nothing about them. Further it seems the antagonism is based on a hatred of those who DARE to try to run a business and they want the people like the pensioner you mention to die rather than try and help themselves.

        All very soviet (self-employment was illegal in the USSR) and doctrinaire.

        1. 230929 says:

          I use B&Bs a lot. I don’t drive, so travelling often involves having to make an overnight stay. I’d say they’re intrinsic to our public transport network, especially for those of us who choose to, or by necessity, live frugally rather than extravagantly. I’m not sure I could afford travel as often as I do any longer if the people who share their homes with me have to put up their prices [still further than they’ve already had to do] in order to cover the additional costs they will incur under the new licensing scheme.

          Now, here’s an idea. Perhaps my saltirecard could entitle me to free or discounted overnight accommodation (and a full Scottish breakfast) to enable my getting about.

    2. Doghouse Rielly says:

      You will be aware that landlord registration fees are set by the Scottish Government? That they were frozen for the first six or so years and they can’t be used to search for or take enforcement action unregistered land lords?

      I’ve had the privilege of working with more than one landlord registration team, and spent time talking with those from many others. I have no doubt about the commitment of these people to do their jobs effectively. Like pretty much all of local government they are under resourced.

      As to the size of our councils, I agree, we have 32 when we should have 132 plus.

      On the issue of pay, well, decide how much you are prepared to pay someone to run an organisation as complex as a council and work back from there.

      If you don’t want to pay a council CEO as much as £150k (there are perhaps two out of 32 earning that much) then smaller councils and more councillors is what you will get.

      That would be a good thing in my view But even the smallest of them have employee lists of over a thousand, control resources in the hundreds of millions and do some pretty tricky and important stuff. Child protection, education, that sort of stuff.

      We’ve been getting it on the cheap for two decades or more, no surprise it’s not as good as we would all like it to be but it’s not the fault of the folk doing their best to make it work.

      1. 230926 says:

        You’re right there, DR; our local governments aren’t local enough. Their jurisdictions need to be much smaller if they are to be less ‘distant’ from and more accountable to the neighbourhoods they govern.

        They also need to have more of the power that’s been centralised in the national government, again to make the exercise of that power more democratically accountable. Sure, it make sense for us to ‘pool’ local sovereignty in matters of common interest; but this should be done strictly on the basis of subsidiarity, with the national government performing only those tasks which can’t be performed at a more local level (and the supranational UK government performing only those tasks which can’t be performed at a national level). My biggest gripe with ‘Independence’ is that it would give the national government even more power local neighbourhoods, which isn’t good for democracy.

        The new national regime for the regulation of short-term lets, which unjustly penalises small homesharing operations in at least some parts of the country, is a great example of how national government doesn’t always work. It should be left to local government to regulate markets in response to local needs, and the national government, instead of aggrandising itself, should disempower itself in favour of local government in order to enable local authorities to perform that regulatory task either individually or collectively, in partnership with other local authorities. This would make our government generally more responsive to local needs and more accountable to our local neighbourhoods, which would be a good thing.

        1. Doghouse Rielly says:

          No argument from me. We have about 1350 elected representatives in Scotland. Of those, I think less than 100 have any real influence or power.

          Probably fewer than when it was all down to aristocrats, bankers and merchants.

          Not very democratic.

      2. Prendergast2023 says:

        “You will be aware that landlord registration fees are set by the Scottish Government? That they were frozen for the first six or so years and they can’t be used to search for or take enforcement action unregistered land lords?”

        Really, so registration and paying is in effect OPTIONAL for B&Bs and others?

        Please give evidence for the statements in the sentence above.

        1. Doghouse Rielly says:

          No, I said landlord registration fees are set by the Scottish Government. That is a fact. The licensing of short term lets is under different legislation, the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

          But both Acts require that fees should be no more than is required to administer the scheme.

          As I understand it “Administering the scheme” doesn’t include searching for unlicensed operators.

          1. 230929 says:

            That’s funny! According to the Scottish government’s own guidance, ‘The local council decides the cost of a short-term let licence. This is likely to depend on the property size and the type of let. You should check the local council’s website for information about the cost of the licence.’

            Were talking about the cost of a short-term let licence here under the new requirement, not landlord registration under the existing legislation. You’re not trying to muddy the waters here, are you?

          2. Doghouse Rielly says:

            230926- no I was responding to the previous post that presented what I think is a misinterpretation of my earlier comments.

            You are right, councils set the fee for specific licences based on the factors set out in the guidance, but the total fee income, the sum of all the individual charges, should be no more than the cost of administering the scheme. That is a requirement of the relevant legislation.

            I was trying for a little clarity. My apologies if it seemed otherwise.

  5. John Wood says:

    I’m sorry once again to take issue with one of your posts Mike. I’m not sure quite what you are trying to say. I agree that Scottish Tourism needs a complete re-think, but to launch into a furious tirade against people offering traditional B&B – paying guests in private houses – the basis of our economy – is just not acceptable at all.

    What on earth do you mean by “Not only is this completely offensive, I think we can be fairly sure it is written by someone with little or no knowledge of Scotland or the Clearances. I mean, sure, landlords were involved with the highland clearances but I think you’ve maybe got your history wrong…”

    On the contrary, as someone who has studied the history an archaeology of the highlands for around 30 years, I can say with confidence that the B&B operators know their history rather better than you appear to. And if I was someone who took offence, I would take it from statements like that. I’m on the side of the locals. The reason the B&B Association use those emotive words is because that’s exactly how it feels here.

    The highlands and islands are indeed suffering new clearances. We are being deliberately defunded and our economy is being deliberately destroyed, by people who regard everyone and everything as their private property to be exploited and disposed of as they see fit. Apparently it’s ‘cheaper’ to provide public services in urban areas. Apparently our wish to live here, despite everything that’s thrown at us, is something to attack and mock. Plus ça change…

    Clearances don’t start with burning people out of their crofts, they start much more subtly. The better off are ‘encouraged’ to leave by removing all public services and making their lives impossible. It is only when you are left with the poorest and most destitute that such extreme methods become necessary. Meanwhile, our schools, care homes, public toilets are closed, our roads are full of potholes and flood every time it rains, completely overwhelmed by traffic they were never built for; our ferries have become an unending horror story; delivery and energy charges are outrageous; it is apparently too expensive to provide any services here, jobs are centralised, and housing is simply not available. And those of us who are left find even taking a paying guest lands you with new charges that will just go to subsidise destructive mass tourism. Whether it is through deep corruption or just fear of corporate bullying matters little. The Scottish Government has utterly betrayed us.

    1. 230926 says:

      You’re right, John; clearances begin with the break-up of local communities. As communal life becomes (for whatever reason) less sustainable in a given locality, people leave that locality, which in turn makes communal life even less sustainable, which means that even more people leave the locality. The recent ‘dreadful’ TV series ‘Lost Worlds’ explained this rather well; indeed, it generalised from the lessons it learned from the abandoned places it visited that the root cause of global migration is people abandoning localities where (for reasons of climate change, economic collapse, eviction, persecution, insecurity, or whatever), communal life has become more and more unsustainable.

      National Records of Scotland statisticians are forecasting population reductions for all of Scotland’s island local authorities over the next 20 years unless they can attract greater migration from other parts of the world. However, the same statisticians calculate that, over the past 20 years, island populations have actually grown at an average rate of 2.6% (7.9% for the Highlands as a whole). The ‘new clearances’ narrative seems to be a bit of a myth.

      One thing is certain: those ‘alt-right’-types, who want to control to whom vacant houses can be sold and thereby make places like Sutherland into reservations for natives, are doing the demography of those areas no favours at all.

      1. John Wood says:

        I agree with the need to decentralise, but I see no evidence at all that ” over the past 20 years, island populations have actually grown at an average rate of 2.6% (7.9% for the Highlands as a whole).” That seems to be ‘a bit of a myth’. The Increase in the population of the Highland Council area is entirely accounted for by the extraordinary growth of the urban area of Inverness, which has actually sucked investment and resources out of the rural areas. The vast, soulless, new housing estates around the south side, thousands of houses packed in without proper public transport or local services, made a lot of money for the volume housebuilders and brought in plenty of money to Highland Council but left their new residents isolated and car-dependent. And now the outrageous “Free Port” is going to make matters worse, sucking yet more jobs and economic activity out of the ‘wild west’.

        I live in Wester Ross. The new clearances are certainly not a myth here, as our, schools, public toilets, recycling centres, care homes, fall apart and are closed; jobs are centralised in Inverness; houses are bought over by the wealthy; land is still as inaccessible as ever; our roads are completely overwhelmed by convoys of large, heavy vehicles that can make travel almost impossible; roads that flood every time it rains and develop car-destroying potholes and gullies that receive minimal if any maintenance; where we pay excessive delivery charges and the highest electricity charges in the UK (while we already export far more electricity than we can ever use), yet are still expected to put up with the destruction and industrialisation of our landscape to generate even more. Where for all the nonsense about ‘rewilding’ (which really means allowing the super rich to go wild and do as they please), mining companies are already moving in to rip our land apart for private profit. And where we have suffered quite enough from drive through. freeloading, self contained, safari style, (escape to the wild’ tourism that destroys our economy. And now this outrage of a licensing scheme that applies only to the small B&B, the back-bone of our economy, designed apparently to put them out of business. The scheme does not apply to motorhomes, or campervans, or the posh hotels, or cruise ships, all of which feed tourists into the honey trap sites of their friends. And what happens to the money raised? It is to be used to actually promote these utterly destructive forms of mass over-tourism, at the direct expense of the very people expected to pay.

        The Scottish Government has created planning policy that is entirely urban focussed, claiming that it is ‘cheaper’ to deliver ‘services’ in urban areas. The highlands and islands are just ‘remote rural’, to be run down, cleared and rewilded. Part of the 30% of the planet to be ‘reserved’ for ‘nature’ (actually for the super-rich) under the World Economic Forum’s 30:30 agenda. Visit Scotland promotes the highlands as a wilderness playground to escape to. A sort of safari park where the natives just get in the way of a ‘wild’ experience . Until that is the whole area has been completely destroyed with 5G towers, power lines and monster turbines, military sites and ranges, mining, etc. Then it can be abandoned, like everywhere else on the planet, trashed and discarded when it no longer makes any money for the 1%.

        The population of Wester Ross and the Western Isles continues to decline, apart from small improvements in Benbecula and Stornoway (https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/strategy-performance-and-research/outer-hebrides-factfile/population/island-populations/ ) Skye, which has seen some stabilisation in recent years with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Skye Bridge and tourists settling, is being actively de-funded. We read it in the West Highland Free Press every week, and we see it with our own eyes. )

        That because numbers overall are so small already, really amount to very little. Everything is closing down and people are leaving. Population density here is 2 people per sq km.., so of course we don’t matter, because there just aren’t enough votes here to make any difference to an election. Even Skye, which has seen some stabilisation in recent years with the Skye Bridge and tourists settling, is being actively de-funded. We read it in the West Highland Free Press every week, and we see it with our own eyes.

        And there are plenty of greedy ‘investors’ queuing up to exploit the area away from the public gaze, with their dirty industries, their militarisation, their exclusive gated communities, their so-called carbon trading schemes and so on.

        So let’s have less of this ‘it’s all a myth’ nonsense about the new clearances.

        Finally, by way of a postscript, it is a weird logic to suggest that the clear need for decentralisation is a reason to centralise power in Westminster! Nothing could be more counterproductive. Westminster simply doesn’t do decentralisation. The Highlands and Islands have suffered centuries of depopulation and destruction through the centralisation of power and resources. Decentralisation has to start with self-determination at national level. Then we need to make it clear to Edinburgh that it doesn’t stop there.
        We need a decentralised Scotland, and I agree with Lesley Riddoch that that means a Scotland that learns from its prosperous, decentralised, democratic Scandinavian neighbours. Where I live, the Scandinavian connection is a very ancient, deep rooted one, as are our cultural roots in Ireland. The Hebrides and the northern isles were not incorporated into centralised Scotland until the end of the 16th century. We have as much claim to self-determination of our own as Wales does in England. The so-called ‘British’ Empire was a very late arrival on the scene. Its arrival, and the centralisation of power that came with its conquest and colonialism, brought misery and depopulation to the highlands and islands. Forgive and forget? On a purely practical basis, I think not. The first step must be freedom from London. But Highlanders will never be satisfied with an Edinburgh government that just gives us more of the same.

        1. 230927 says:

          Well, you will of course see no evidence of population growth in the Scottish islands and the Highlands generally over the past 20 years if you simply disregard the evidence that’s been gathered by agencies like the NRS. As Trump and the alt-right in America would say, suchlike evidence (evidence that doesn’t fit your preferred political narrative) is clearly ‘fake’.

          But you’re right; as I said above, settlements like yours in Wester Ross are abandoned (their worlds are lost, as dodgy characters like Ben Fogle might say) when living and working there becomes unsustainable for whatever reason; and the more unsustainable life becomes, the more people abandon them. People leave (for whatever reason); public services become unsustainable due to falling populations; more people leave. The clearance of a land of its population is what some sociologists call an ‘accelerative process’. The way to slow and eventually reverse that process is to attract new settlers, who are sufficient to sustain a community that is sufficient in turn to sustain public services and a civic life, which in their turn will sustain the further resettlement. It’s the same solution that I proposed to that auld fella I was taking to down in Boston as an alternative to excluding incomers.

          I agree that it would be queer to argue that the clear need for decentralisation is a reason to centralise power in Westminster. There is an equal need for the UK government to disempower itself in favour of local neighbourhoods as there is for the Scottish government to do the same; most of my activism in England involves arguing that very need.

          The ‘problem’ is that no centre of power (whether it’s in Inverness, Edinburgh, London, or Brussels) ever voluntarily disempowers itself, but any centre of power can ‘deconstruct’ under the shock of crises, leaving local communities to fill the resulting power vacuum and take up the slack of government. Maybe, if its communities organise and develop their own resilience, Wester Ross’s day will come when the Scottish government collapses under the weight of its own sclerotic, resource-hungry bureaucracy in the face of the brewing polycrisis.

          1. Graeme McCormick says:

            a resolution to allow communities to become local authorities with taxation and executive powers was rejected by the SNP conference committee. It was permissive rather than talk down.

            It would have gone a long way in counteracting the march of centralisation.

          2. John Wood says:

            We seem to be in general agreement. I fact I have spent around 30 years trying to help revitalise rural communities here. But why then go on the attack with

            “Well, you will of course see no evidence of population growth in the Scottish islands and the Highlands generally over the past 20 years if you simply disregard the evidence that’s been gathered by agencies like the NRS. As Trump and the alt-right in America would say, suchlike evidence (evidence that doesn’t fit your preferred political narrative) is clearly ‘fake’.”

            ‘Fake’? Have a look at this: https://spice-spotlight.scot/2022/03/24/population-growth-and-decline-on-scotlands-islands-2001-to-2020/ Of course it’s the Scottish Government which no doubt rules out any credibility as far as you’re concerned., but it’ll do for me. Urban areas have grown while more rural ones have declined. And (Inverness excluded) any growth here in the ‘remote rural’ highlands has still been relatively small. I have no political agenda. I am simply offering my direct experience.

          3. 230927 says:

            That ScotGov article quotes the same figures, from the same source, as I do. You said you’ve seen no evidence at all that over the past 20 years, island populations have actually grown at an average rate of 2.6% (7.9% for the Highlands as a whole). There’s the evidence you haven’t seen, in the NRS statistics both ScotGov and I quote.

          4. 230928 says:

            @ Graeme

            I’m intrigued. How does the rejected proposal compare with Labour’s decentralisation policy for Britain as a whole?

        2. Niemand says:

          Just like Highland ‘ethnic cleansing’, the new clearances is another appropriation and crass distortion of a term in order to ramp up the ill-feeling and entrench a sense of grievance. Add to that Scotland as a bonafide colony of England which has conducted genocide in Scotland and reduced its population to slavery (yes, actually a new ethnic nationalist maniacal trope). What’s next? I know! It all adds up to another Holocaust! Call the UN!

          What I notice in your posts is the number of times you use the term ‘our’, like the area belongs to only one select group. It reminds me of the person who rails against you parking on a public road outside their house because the space is ‘theirs’. It isn’t.

          None of this says the issue of housing for local people and a good balance with holiday lets is not of paramount importance, even requiring quite drastic measures that prioritise those that need prioritising (I am not for just letting the market decide as that will lead not to a changed culture but none at all – a kind of themed dead zone), but the Highlands as a region, does not belong to anyone.

          1. John Wood says:

            Niemand, once again I have a very different perception. I absolutely reject your hostility and your attempt to twist my words into something supposedly intended to ‘ramp up the ill-feeling and entrench a sense of grievance’. I have said it before, but this is the exact opposite of what I try to say. It is simply blind hostility. Why do you do it?

            What I notice in your posts is the number of times you interpret every word I use to suit your political agenda. The word ‘our’ is actually inclusive and does not refer to any ‘ select group’. It even includes you!

            Something you appear to deny. Come one, stop attacking me for no reason. I just think that respect and recognition is due to the cultural heritage of the highlands as much as any other. The only way to develop better understanding and harmony in the future is not to try to sweep history under the carpet but to acknowledge and address the past, because like it or not, it shapes the present. There are those who deny the holocaust too. It isn’t helpful. The only way forward for all of us is through mutual respect, and that has to be based on mutual understanding.

          2. Niemand says:

            There are no ‘new clearances’ John Wood. It was you who say there are and that to claim otherwise is ‘nonsense’. To draw a parallel with what happened in the 19th century (forced clearance) is false and is quite clearly ramping up the rhetoric. It implies there is an actual desire and co-ordinated move by, well I don’t know who by in this case – tell us, to clear people out by whatever means. But there obviously is not. Own what you say or take it back. And it is part of a newer nationalist rhetoric that absolutely is trying to make such false equivalences for political ends. If people really want to be taken seriously and to be inclusive they would stop doing this.

            And so who are the numerous references to ‘our’ in your first post referring to? Using ‘our’ makes out they belong to you and your group, not whoever is not ‘our’. It is pretty simple English indicating ownership. If you really intended to be inclusive you would not use the term ‘our’.

            I merely respond to what you say John. What you don’t see is how it might generate hostility (though that is an exaggeration – I would call it frustration) so I have tried to explain that. Clearly therefore it it is not at all blind. I am not attacking you, as it isn’t at all personal. I am attacking some of what underpins your worldview that you express in your own polemical rhetoric. In other areas we agree but I will never accept we should start using the language of past iniquities to describe present day problems without serious examination and we ain’t getting that here. It is very much what far right and left radicals do to try and make people more angry. But of course is never leads to anything good because it is based on falsehoods.

          3. 230928 says:

            Sorry to butt in, but the use of the term ‘clearances’ to describe the demographic changes that are currently taking place in some parts of rural Scotland is rhetorically equivalent to the use of the term ‘pogrom’ that the ‘Oppressed Landlords of Edinburgh’ were rightly pilloried for using elsewhere on this site. It’s ‘a despicable comparison: how nasty, how ignorant, how vile’.

            Which just goes to show: people in glass houses should not throw stones; pot and kettles, and all that.

    2. Bark Crayfish says:

      Unfortunately there are an increasing number of ‘B&Bs’ that are far from being run by ‘wee couthy Jeanie’ to help make ends meet on the croft. If you do happen to come across the genuine article it can be a tremendous experience to stay with someone local with all the social and cultural networks to bring to bear to enrich a stay. Long may they continue.
      However, there is a trend in ‘B&B’ these days and it also disguises the reality of the situation. These ‘B&Bs’ are simply parts of larger businesses that have purchased a property portfolio across multiple communities and put in short term managers who are usually brought in for a season or two with no longer term commitment or interest in the community or it’s sustainability. A different form of absentee landlordism.

      1. 230927 says:

        Yes, but that’s not ‘homesharing’ as this is defined in the legislation. It’s the practice of homesharing that the legislation unjustly penalises and, if what you say is true, to the demise of which practice it’s contributing. As Mikey Pops testifies on The Landlords’ Revolt thread, homesharers are leaving the market in growing numbers as a result of the legislation to be replaced (presumably) by the sort of hostels you describe.

  6. Desiree Elizabeth Leckie Brincat says:

    It is true that in the North Highlands, there is a lack of both holiday accommodation, but mostly accommodation for locals, who are priced out of the market, and are forced to move away. The current legislation is addressing a couple of key areas, such as basic safety for visitors, and attempting to address the imbalance between short term rentals and local long term housing needs. The issue had to be tackled. However welcome such legislation is, there is perhaps an area that has been overlooked, and that is motorhome and caravan hire. Highland roads consist of a lot of single track roads, and the infrastructure (such as on the NC500) is suffering because it was not built for the surge in traffic that use it. Locals who rely on these roads, and are often thwarted to keep their time-scales/commitments. Motorhome businesses rightly deserve to make profits, as does all tourism businesses, but I think regulation in this sector is also needed. We need to provide far better infrastructure for the needs of this type of visitor. Tourism is meant to be a happy and rewarding experience for everyone, at both visitor and community level. It is what makes Scotland that special destination, in extent of landscape and world-renowned hospitality. It’s hospitality that has always been about giving, rather than taking. Compliments from our visitors have always been the most rewarding and most appreciated. We aim to keep it that way.

    1. 230927 says:

      Yeah, that kind of reminds me of a conversation I had with an auld fella down in Lincolnshire a couple of years back, during the Brexit campaign. He was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t get a same-day appointment with his doctor and how the schools were overcrowded and how there was a shortage of affordable housing for ‘native’ folk and how it was all the fault of the East Europeans who were coming into the area to take advantage of the shortage of field-hands. The local infrastructure couldn’t support the number of immigrants who were coming to live there.

      I suggested two things to him.

      First of all, the fact that the people who were coming into the area to work in the fields were from Eastern Europe was irrelevant; the infrastructure would still be unable to support the population level required by the local economy even it the immigrants were coming instead from the East Riding of Yorkshire.

      Secondly, the solution to the problem was to use the wealth created by the people who had come to live and work in the area to develop the local infrastructure rather than send those immigrants home.

      Of course, he wasn’t convinced: his concern wasn’t really with the economy of his locality, but was rather with the fact that the people who were filling the job vacancies and taking the scarce houses and crowding the schools and GP and hospital waiting rooms weren’t ‘natives’ but ‘incomers’.

      I think a better strategy for the Highlands (and our rural areas more generally) would be to encourage tourism and immigration, turn them into public revenue streams, and use that revenue locally to develop the infrastructure that would benefit visitors and locals alike. We keep hearing how much tourism is worth to the national economy, but we see little evidence of that benefit locally.

  7. Ian Stewart says:

    I live on the Isle of Skye, there are 5 houses as “neighbours”. Only one is lived in by a family. The other 4 are short term lets. All have received licenses. If the purpose of the legislation were to put these houses onto the market for local people to buy and live in then it would be a good result. As I understand it, no licenses have been refused, across all Scotland. I fully support legislation ensuring these properties are safe for visitors, but there should surely have been a more holistic overview of the impact of short term lets on small rural communities.

    1. 230928 says:

      The expressed purpose of the legislation is to ensure that there is a mandatory set of standards that apply to all short-term lets across Scotland. It’s got nothing to do with increasing the housing stock for ‘natives’ or sticking it to smug, self-entitled landlords like my neebor, Molly; that’s just something the grudge-and-grievance brigade would like to make of the legislation.

      There should indeed have been a more holistic overview of the impact of short-term lets on small rural communities. There’s little prospect of the legislation being ‘paused’ until its flaws and unintended consequences can be ironed out; the Scottish government says ‘Naw!’. And apparently, according to the grudge-and-grievance brigade, the call to do so is just an attempt by the likes of Molly to sabotage that legislation for their own nefarious ends.

    2. Graeme McCormick says:


      i’m interested to know the rough market value of these neighbouring houses.

      Would they be “affordable “ to first and second time buyers with a joint income of say £50k ?

      we’re any built as social housing?

      1. 230928 says:

        According to RightMove, houses in the Isle of Skye were going for an overall average price of £267,603 over the last year. I’ve no idea whether anyone could afford this on an income of £50k a year; I’ve never bought a house in my life.

        1. Graeme McCormick says:

          average price is not a reasonable measure as it is generally an average of all types of housing. A better measure would be the average price of two bedroomed houses as that is normally adequate accommodation for first time buyers so they can start a family.
          The other issue is how many two bedroomed houses are there on Skye.

          1. 230928 says:

            Sorry, Graeme; my mistake. I assumed you were ‘interested to know the rough market value of these neighbouring houses’ and whether they’d ‘be “affordable “ to first and second time buyers with a joint income of say £50k’.

  8. Winston M says:

    As an Edinburgh resident for more than 20 years, I have watched the rise to power of the inept SNP and their increasingly authoritarian socialist rule, while despairing at the decline of the city I love. Their latest draconian policy that prevents people from renting out their own houses is straight from a Marxist playbook and looks set to completely destroy Edinburgh tourism and cause serious damage to the Scottish economy.

    Where are contract/transient workers, post-grad students, NHS staff etc etc going to go when they need a few months stay in the city?
    My niece is a student nurse who simply cannot afford to pay hotel rates for months while she comes to Edinburgh to work at the Royal Infirmary this winter. She’s one of thousands of transient workers who will be unable to find an affordable place to stay Edinburgh due to this ill-thought-out policy created in the name of the ‘common good’.

    One can only pray for a more balanced and competent government in Scotland that at least gives passing consideration to the hard working people who contribute to the economy instead of encouraging the entitled, benefits-claiming shit-kickers who contribute nothing.

    This website, this article and many of the comments posted here reek of socialist envy, which I personally find disgusting.

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