Covid in Scotland: Household mixing rules at holiday lets 'confusing'

  • Published
Shiskine Golf Club on July 24, 2018, Isle of Arran, ScotlandImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Isle of Arran is popular with those opting for a self catering holiday

The Scottish government is facing criticism amid claims of confusion over regulations on households mixing in self-catering accommodation.

The Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers said it was initially told holiday homes were exempt from rules preventing households mixing indoors.

But the trade body says Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing has now told them this is no longer the case.

The Scottish government said its position was clear.

It added that the industry had been informed that only one household would be allowed to share self-catering accommodation and "guidance to operators is in progress".

The rules will now apply from Friday.

"The inability of the Scottish government to get its story straight on self-catering over the past 48 hours has sent ripples of fear, anxiety, and stress throughout our sector," said ASSC chief executive Fiona Campbell.

She said the self-catering industry in Scotland has "led the way" through the pandemic, by shutting down in March and implementing strict cleaning protocols.

"We have stood side-by-side with the Scottish government and now find ourselves being thoroughly let down by them," Ms Campbell added.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Bookings for self catering holidays have soared since tourism was removed from lockdown in July

The use of self-contained holiday accommodation such as cottages and lodges in Scotland has been allowed since July and the sector has enjoyed a bounce in bookings given the restrictions on overseas travel.

The ASSC said it received assurances from the Scottish government on Tuesday that the ban on visiting other households did not include self-catering units.

The next day the trade body says national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, told Radio Scotland that you "can't have two households in self-catering so that would be like allowing them in your own home".

Further clarification from government tourism sector officials was sought and the ASSC said it was told the guidance remained the same and restrictions did not apply to holiday homes.

Ban does now apply

The organisation then got an email from Mr Ewing that said, following further consideration, the one household restriction would now apply to self-catering properties from Friday.

A booking system which covers 25% of the holiday let market in Scotland has seen £1.1m of cancellations in the last 10 days, according to the ASSC.

There are a further £70m of current bookings in the same system for the last three months of the year.

A Scottish government spokesman 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.

"As the first minister has made absolutely clear, we do not underestimate the devastating impact this pandemic has had on Scotland's tourism sector - but we are at a critical point, the virus is rising again, we face the risk of exponential growth and everyone must play their part in stopping its spread in Scotland."