Nicola Sturgeon loses it in BBC interview after interruption
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The Scottish Government has cracked down on Airbnb and short-term let owners, as councils must approve licences for the rental properties. However, data has shown the SNP-led Government has spent thousands of public funds on Airbnb’s, with opposition MSPs calling it the “height of hypocrisy”.
Figures published on Sunday showed the Scottish Government spent £40,065 on Airbnb accommodation since the start of the 2018/19 financial year.
Nearly £30,000 was spent by the SNP led Government in 2019/20.
Data shows a sharp increase in spending in 2019/20, with just £2,200 spent in 2018/19, rising to nearly £29,000 in 2019/20.
In the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, spending with Airbnb hit nearly £7,000, and the Government has spent just over £2,000 in 2021/22, as of the end of January.
The figures were first published by the Scotsman on Sunday after a Freedom of Information request.
Officials told the outlet they did not hold any information around why the properties were needed.
A spokesperson claimed the rentals were only booked when there was a “critical business need”.
Opposition MSPs decried the SNP’s “hypocrisy”, with Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservatives’ housing spokesperson, saying: “It is the height of hypocrisy at a time when ministers have ignored concerns from small businesses and ploughed ahead with their new licensing scheme regardless.
“Yet they appear all too happy to spend taxpayers’ money on the properties they want to hit with further regulation.
“Ministers should be upfront as to why these costs were so high, when public money was being used.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Paul McGarry criticised the lack of information.
He said: “This Scottish Government has an addiction to secrecy.
“If you are spending £40k on Airbnbs, you should be telling the public what the pressing need was and explaining why this was the most effective way to accomplish some worthwhile goal.
“Anything else looks like a craven attempt to dodge scrutiny. We need a complete rewiring of Scottish Government culture.
“The presumption should be that information is accessible to the people who ultimately pay these bills, unless there is an extremely good reason for it to be kept secret.”
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Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said the SNP’s response and regulation of the sector is “shambolic”.
He said: “While the SNP ramp up their rhetoric about regulating Airbnb, they have been handing over thousands of taxpayer pounds.
“Once again the SNP’s response to Airbnb is all over the place, much like their shambolic attempts at regulation.
“At a time when every single penny of public money is being squeezed, the SNP have questions to answer about these eye-watering sums.”
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It comes after the SNP passed laws on the regulation of the short-term let sector in January.
The plans see councils given the power to devise their own licensing scheme for short-term lets by October, with all operators required to apply for a licence by 2024.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said of the spending figures: “These figures relate to spending of over 100 Scottish public sector bodies, including the Scottish Government.
“Airbnb has been used when there is a critical business need and in exceptional circumstance, for example for self-catered accommodation that was not available through the corporate travel management service.”
The spokesperson said short-term lets had contributed positively to Scotland’s tourism industry, but regulation was needed to manage issues surrounding them more effectively.
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