Over the last two years, Halogen Communications has carried out a successful campaign of engagement on the Planning (Scotland) Bill with MSPs, councillors, an array of stakeholders and business partners, and the Scottish media on behalf of a number of our clients, Airbnb and the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC). Following a three-day debate in the Scottish Parliament, MSPs concluded reforms to Scotland’s planning system by passing the Planning (Scotland) Bill which Halogen Communications aided our clients to secure.
Mired in controversy and complex revisions to the Scottish Planning system,Ministers introduced the Bill in an attempt to streamline planning and to “empower communities”.However, at Stage One of the process, MSPs raised concerns about the Bill in its initial drafting and only agreed to pass it on the expressed intention to make considerable changes to the Bill in the Committee Stage and at Stage 3. Following over 200 successful amendments to the Bill at Stage 2, Ministers raised concerns that changes could instead create “unnecessary burdens” and “millions of pounds of new costs” and talk began of the government withdrawing the Bill.
With parties crossed in support for some changes but not others, the opportunity arose to work on a cross-party level to make suitable changes for Bill so that our clients, opposition parties and the Scottish Government could be satisfied and secure its approval at Stage 3.
At Stage 2, the Lothians Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman successfully introduced an amendment that would have required all short-term lets that were not the property owner’s primary residence to require planning permission to operate.
To mitigate this measure, which would have applied to the entirety of Scotland, Scottish Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton MSP successfully amended this to give planning authorities the power to create Short-Term Let Control Zones and only there would short-term lets require planning permission.
After further amendments were agreed at Stage 3 – many of which were removing or altering changes made at Stage 2 – the Bill was passed by 78 votes to 26. Opposition parties, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens, claimed there was an “SNP-Tory stitch up” to cut more ambitious plans from the final Bill. The Bill was passed by the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives, with the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Greens and the Scottish Labour voting against it.
We believe the success in this instance can be attributed to a long term and forcefully applied engagement strategy, making sure that the positive case for short-term lets provided and represented by Airbnb and the ASSC respectively, was heard by MSPs. Our clients showed a willingness to work with legislators and to be regulated, dispelling myths peddled about their sector, while we provided the advice and the engagement necessary to deliver the success on the Bill. We at Halogen are pleased for our clients success and we know that this can be replicated in other campaigns with bespoke advice and strategy tailored for our clients.