Opinion Former Article

‘Eyewatering’ losses hit Scottish rural economy following self-catering accommodation restrictions

Country sports tourism businesses have hit out at the Scottish Government’s decision to impose a single household restriction on self-catering accommodation, as tens of thousands of pounds worth of cancellations have hit businesses in a matter of days.

The backlash comes after the Scottish Government made an eleventh hour u-turn last week, which saw the single-household rule being applied to self-catering accommodation businesses while other commercial accommodation businesses – such as hotels and B&Bs – remained exempt. 

One sporting agency based in Inverness-shire has described a situation in which the cancellation of a single-booking has resulted in over £16,000 worth of losses to the rural economy.

The agency’s owner, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: “This one household regulation for self-catering accommodation has honestly been the last straw for my business.

“It is beggars belief that intelligent, Covid-19-aware, tested clients cannot stay in a large, airy shooting lodge when there are private, en-suite bedrooms for each person and a Covid-19 trained cook. They would have been outdoors from approximately 08:30 until 17:30 every day on the Scottish mountains.”

“The implications of this disastrous rule are so widespread. So many people have been affected: the lady who bakes cakes for the lodge, the housekeeping team, the laundry company, the utility companies, the local shop, the florist, the gun shop, the clay pigeon ground, the sporting agent, the estate – we’ve all been hit hard at the worst possible time.”

Some businesses have also warned that timing of the restriction will leave lasting and damaging implications.

Dr Simon Wright, the owner of a Perthshire-based sporting agency, said: “September and October are our busiest months, and the restrictions on self-catering accommodation effectively put my business through the shredder.

“All of our multi-occupancy buildings and associated sport was cancelled within 24 hours of the announcement. Those 24 hours have fundamentally changed the future of our business.”

In the aftermath of the u-turn, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) called for a more consistent approach to restrictions being imposed on commercial accommodation businesses.

Ross Ewing, BASC’s political and press officer in Scotland, said: “It has only been one week since this disastrous announcement and we are already seeing the eyewatering implications for Scotland’s rural economy.

“While we recognise that the Scottish Government needs to take difficult decisions as it contends with this crisis, it is also incumbent on them to help and support sectors which have seen business and trade decimated as a result.

“We urge the Scottish Government to look again at this decision – self-catering businesses have been unfairly singled out. If the Scottish Government deem that current restrictions should continue, then we must impress the fundamental need to make urgent support available to impacted businesses. It is an absolute necessity if rural business is to survive.”

ENDS

Notes to the Editor:

These wider impacts follow a survey by the Association for Scotland’s Self-Caterers which found:
Almost three-quarters of self-catering businesses have been negatively impacted financially by the new restrictions.
Nearly 60% of self-caterers have already experienced cancellations.
42% expect financial losses of between £1,000-£10,000 up until the end of the year, 17% expect losses of between £10,000 and £20,000, while 13% expect more than £20,000.
Three quarters of self-caterers are somewhat or very pessimistic about their business over the next 3 to 6 months.
The impact is not purely financial as 55% of self-caterers have experienced mental health issues or some mild anxiety associated with the Covid-19 restrictions.
Nearly 60% would like to see the introduction of financial support from the Scottish Government to help mitigate the impact of the new changes.
Three-quarters want clear communications from the Scottish Government on changes to restrictions.

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