What The Dickins: A Tale Of Edinburgh City

Save Self Catering in Edinburgh – Judicial Review

In the week leading up to Christmas, I became one of four petitioners who brought a Judicial Review against Edinburgh Council’s Short Term Lets Licensing Scheme. When legislation is laid there is a three month window to challenge it and if you miss that timeframe, all opportunities to challenge at a later date are lost. Given that I am very keen to save self catering in Edinburgh and because Edinburgh Council’s plans are so catastrophic for our industry, there was no option but to play my part in bringing this Judicial Review.

The other petitioners are Ralph Averbuch, Craig Douglas and Glenn Ford. Iain Muirhead and Anna Morris are very important members of the core team and their input has been immensely valuable. Fiona Campbell’s tenacity and tireless work for our industry on behalf of the ASSC is and always has been invaluable too. Rosie Walker at Gilson Gray is our lawyer. She’s just won the Sex Workers case against Edinburgh Council and is skilled at what she does. Morag Ross is our KC. Human rights and public law are her area of expertise and she is skilled too. We are a very effective team. Flung together at the last minute in that pre Christmas week, but making real progress with both planning and licensing. It turns out that all the hours and hours it consumes is worth it, because this Judicial Review is important. Very important.

What’s wrong with Edinburgh Council’s STL Licensing Scheme?

A lot! Scottish Government’s Short Term Let Licensing legislation is meant to be about health and safety. We welcome that approach. At Dickins, our homes have the equivalent of long term letting health and safety certification, so we’re already ticking those boxes. We’ve self regulated for years. We don’t use lock boxes, or advertise sofa beds and we’re available 24/7 to deal with any issues. But Edinburgh’s Council’s scheme goes way beyond health and safety.

Exterminate, Exterminate….

You’ll no doubt be aware of the very negative way in which short term letting has been portrayed across the press and media in recent years. So many ills have been laid at our door, from hollowing out communities, to contributing to homelessness and even to housing illegal puppy farms. We’ve been viewed as a problem. A toxic problem. Both owners and guests who use self catering, tarred with the same negative brush. A scourge on society, a problem which needs to be eradicated. Call in Dr Who’s Dalek’s to exterminate, exterminate…… you can tell my age by that reference!

Edinburgh Council’s plans appear to be to exterminate the self catering industry in Edinburgh…..

But for many, many people, who like me, run their business or self catering property with immense pride, high standards and an awareness and concern for neighbours and the wider community, being viewed as a problem rather than the asset we are, has felt very offensive. We are not pests and we not deserve to be exterminated.

I’m not trying to pretend that there aren’t bad operators. There are flats in Edinburgh which accommodate far too many people. There are agents advertising those homes. There are owners who are absent and do not care enough about their neighbours. But they are not me or my fellow petitioners and supporters and certainly not the majority. I don’t know exact numbers, but a quick search on the internet indicates there are less than 50 such troublemaking properties. So, you would have thought that the sensible, cost effective and fastest approach for a council would be to focus on the bad operators. Use existing powers to close them down and if you don’t have the powers, ask for them. Responsible people in this industry want bad operators to be closed down. But that is not what has happened. Instead, Edinburgh’s scheme seeks to close pretty much all self catering in the nations’s capital down. Trashing all the good, along with the few bad apples in the apple cart.

The problem with groupthink and the impact on Edinburgh and its Festivals….

If owners have approached the council to apply for a certificate of lawfulness because they’ve been trading for ten years of more, council workers have poured through their evidence searching for reasons to be able to reach for their reject stamp. You can watch video after video of councillors smiling, laughing even as they reject applications from totally decent operators who have never caused anyone an issue. It is depressing and demoralising to say the least.

It’s what happens when groupthink takes over in organisations which have the power to legislate. Irrational decisions resulting from of a lack of critical evaluation. I highlighted issues with the incorrect numbers of Airbnb’s which were frequently referenced by policymakers as fact in my recent 12,000 Airbnb’s in Edinburgh fact or fiction blog. The absence of need for empirical data has led to a real mess with Edinburgh’s scheme.

Edinburgh’s licensing scheme was already approved when I had a meeting in October with senior Councillor Joanna Mowat and asked her how many people she understood that Edinburgh Festival needed to accommodate. When I asked my sons (10 and 12) how they would create a scheme to accommodate people for a Festival, their first question was how many people are involved? But when we asked Joanna Mowat that question, she had no idea. Absolutely no idea. When you understand the Temporary Exemption scheme that Edinburgh Council has created to “protect” the Festival, it is immediately clear that the numbers were never considered. They just cannot have been because their ‘exemption’ is so unworkable and off putting for owners. Neither was the impact of the large costs required to obtain a temporary exemption. You’d have hoped that councillors would have been aware of all the press articles last year highlighting issues with the cost of accommodation threatening the future of The Fringe. Cammy Day, Leader of Edinburgh Council has recently acknowledged that there needs to be a rethink, as attendees warned that the Edinburgh accommodation crisis is worse than ever. How much better would it have been if they’d committed to getting the scheme right in the first place though. Back in 2019, I could see this coming. That was before the lunacy of Edinburgh’s Temporary Exemption Scheme was on the cards too. I’ve been letting homes for the Festival since 1998. I love The Festival and have always done what I can to help and encourage it to thrive. I wrote a widely referenced blog about the crisis threatening the future of Edinburgh’s Festivals at the time.

Edinburgh this summer

Edinburgh’s Festivals are at crisis point due to Edinburgh Council’s ill conceived licence scheme

A two pronged attack on the self catering industry

Edinburgh has Scotland’s first Planning Control Area. This means that planning is a consideration along with licensing for short term let owners. Historically planning and licensing existing together is not a good combination because they have overlapping intentions. When one exists, the other shouldn’t. But that is the situation in Edinburgh and it’s a mess.

Save Self Catering in Edinburgh – Judicial Review to the rescue!

The key arguments.

The key arguments of our Judicial Review in relation to the Edinburgh Council’s Short Term Let Licensing Policy are:
  • The Policy is not rationally connected to the aims of ensuring STL premises meet the requisite safety standard.
  • The Policy is unreasonable in the Wednesbury sense by operating a presumption against granting STL licences to service providers who have been operating lawfully and who are otherwise fit and proper people to hold a licence.
  • The Policy fails to take into account the merits of individual STL licensing applications.
  • The Policy would result in unequal treatment of STL licences for secondary letting compared with home letting and home sharing.
  • The Policy imposes additional conditions which are arbitrary and unreasonable.
  • The Policy is inconsistent with Provision of Services Regulations 2009.
  • The Policy amounts to an unlawful interference with the Petitioners’ rights as protected by the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
  • The licensing and planning measures adopted in the Policy are confusing, incoherent and unnecessarily duplicative. They impose an excessive burden on those required to obtain STL licenses.
  • The Policy is not proportionate and is oppressive when one looks at the measures adopted and the aim sought to be achieved.

Signs of Success…

It has been a very good couple of weeks for our Judicial Review. We are making significant breakthroughs – progress with both planning and licensing. Our Judicial Review is being mentioned by the Scottish Government. This is important. 

We’re now entering a critical phase. We have to drive home all the wins we believe are within our grasp, our aim being that as many of us as possible can continue doing what we do so well here in Edinburgh. 

The only problem is funding. We need enough funding to be able to win our fight and save self catering in Edinburgh. 

So, that’s where you come in……. 

We are on the cusp of having raised £150,000 in our Crowd Justice campaign. I’m sure we’ll have achieved that this weekend. Ideally, we’ll have achieved £250,000 by the end of March. Then we know we have the funding to fight this legal case in the best way possible to create the maximum benefit for our industry.  If we cannot continue due to lack of funding, the future for Edinburgh’s self catering sector looks bleak. 

So, this really is your LAST CHANCE to help save Edinburgh’s self catering sector. 

Why does this matter? 

If you let a room or your own home; if you rent your home for the Festival; if you own a property that you rent out for the whole or part of the year, then the current licence scheme could close you down. If you choose to stay in self catering properties, you may not be able to continue to do that in Edinburgh. If you run a business that benefits from self-catering, you will be impacted.  The Judicial Review is the only vehicle that can create positive change for our community. So, please get involved….. 

Support the Judicial Review and help save self catering in Edinburgh

How you can help to save self catering in Edinburgh?

“Possibly the most important fight for the future of the entire tourism industry in Scotland.” 10th March 2023. Donator to the Crowd Justice Campaign funding the Judicial Review to Save Self Catering in Edinburgh.

How much to give? 

As much as you can. Any amount makes a difference, big or small. Donate here. 

When to give? 

Now. Unless we are fully funded, we cannot continue. So, this is the moment. If you haven’t given so far, it’s now or never. If you’ve already donated and can give a bit more, please do. Here’s a link to our Crowd Justice page

What happens to excess funds? 

If we find ourselves with excess funds, then funders who have been able to donate £1,000 or more will receive money back pro rata and the rest will be given to the pioneering homeless charity Social Bite or onto other legal challenge cases. 

What else can I do? 

Help to spread the word. Speak to friends who own and use self catering properties in Scotland and share our campaign. Share our campaign via your social media. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and thank you for your support, donations and encouragement. Please take the time to comment on this blog below, letting readers know why self catering in Edinburgh is important to you.

I am confident that we can win this Judicial Review and save self catering in Edinburgh. I want Dickins, who celebrate 25 years of offering great service to owners and guests in Edinburgh in 2023, and all the other caring businesses and individuals involved in this industry in Scotland’s capital city to be able to help owners and welcome guests to Edinburgh for years to come.

Best wishes,

Louise Dickins


  • Rebecca McFarland

    June 8, 2023 at 11:58 am

    Is it too late to contribute? Do you still need funds? Sorry I came to this late.

    And apologies for all the questions. What is the latest, is the judicial review ongoing – when will the outcome be known?

    Thank you for your work on behalf of everyone


    • Dickins

      July 17, 2023 at 7:18 pm

      Dear Rebecca,

      We won the Judicial Review and were awarded expenses by Lord Braid. The City of Edinburgh Council is not appealing. But it feels like we won the battle but not the war. There is still much to be done by the Scottish Government and CEC to resolve, what otherwise is going to be a catastrophe.

  • Pat Duncan

    May 10, 2023 at 5:09 am

    I will be devastated if my plans to stay in one of the Dickins homes is thwarted by this legislation. Since 2019 I have had to postpone my regular visits to the UK (I now live in Australia). In the past we have stayed with friends which is now getting too difficult. Now I want to base myself in Edinburgh instead of travelling the length of the British Isles. This may be my last long trip home so I want it to be relaxing and homely, something Hotels cannot provide.
    I don’t want to have big parties, I just want to be able to have a few friends round for dinner or to be able invite visitors from down south to stay with me instead of staying at a hotel. I cannot think of a better way to be sure of quality and personal service than staying with Dickins . I have been following Dickins and the website since 2018 after seeing the A frame outside the office in Dundas St.
    My fingers are crossed that all turns out well and if needed proper legislation is put in place (after consultation of professionals such as Dickins)


    • Dickins

      July 17, 2023 at 7:20 pm

      That’s so lovely to read Pat. We very much hope that good sense prevails and that wonderful folk like you are able to stay in homes as you always have. It’s a reputational disasster for Scotland otherwise.

  • LesleyAnne Malton

    April 12, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    Just out of interest,where would the Scottish Government and Edinburgh Council expect people to stay if they wish to visit the city? I thought Sheffield City Council were bad when they attempted to remove the city’s street trees (fought successfully by a dedicated group of
    I hope you continue resolutely with your campaign,and that good sense prevails.


    • Dickins

      May 5, 2023 at 8:34 am

      Thank you Lesley Anne. Definitely hoping that good sense prevails.

  • Cat Macdonald-Home

    March 13, 2023 at 9:58 am

    Thank you for your excellent analysis of this wrongheaded legislation.


    • Dickins

      March 13, 2023 at 10:10 am

      Thank you Cat.

  • Jamie Cameron

    March 12, 2023 at 8:39 pm

    Will be supporting you all the way


    • Dickins

      March 13, 2023 at 10:10 am

      Thanks so much Jamie!

  • Edele

    March 12, 2023 at 9:09 am

    Louise, thank you for all your hard work and for using your expertise to right this wrong. It is very much appreciated.


    • Dickins

      March 12, 2023 at 11:27 am

      That’s very kind of you Edele, thanks.

  • Craig Douglas

    March 11, 2023 at 3:25 pm

    After several months it great to see that we are making progress “untying this Gordian knot “ of badly written and badly implemented legislation.


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