Relief as B&B fire rules put on hold

CONTROVERSIAL fire regulations for small bed and breakfast businesses are to be withdrawn while new guidance is agreed, the Scottish Government has announced.

The move follows representations made by Wigtownshire's two chambers of commerce, representatives of which met with Enterprise and Tourism Minister Jim Mather earlier this year.

A number of accommodation providers were also invited to the Scottish Parliament last month after the issue was first highlighted by both the District of Wigtown and the Stranraer and District Chambers of Commerce, which held two public meetings on the issue back in September.

David Taylor, Chairman of the Stranraer and District Chamber and Peter Jeal, President of the District of Wigtown Chamber addressed the concerns to Mr Mather during an hour-long meeting with him in Glasgow.

In particular, concern was voiced at the way in which the regulations were only being applied in Dumfries and Galloway and one other part of Scotland.

Following the public meetings, a cross-party group of MSPs invited a number of local B&B owners to the Scottish Parliament last month to put forward their concerns.

Galloway & Upper Nithsdale MSP Alex Fergusson welcomed the Government U-turn. He said: "This is a fantastic Christmas present for the 130 plus B&B operators in my constituency who provide the bedrock of our tourist industry and who were being hounded by the powers that be to such an extent that many would have closed their doors had ministers not seen sense. That they did so was testament to the cross-party group of MSPs and their constituents who prevailed upon the Government to look again at this issue.

"It is good to know sanity can prevail and I do give Ministers credit for admitting they had got it wrong. The new guidance must be proportionate and fair. The last ones were neither and good riddance to them."

Peter Jeal echoed the delight of both chambers of commerce at the news.

He said: "It must be remembered, however, that these regulations were slipped in under the noses of MSPs in the first place and have caused lots of worry for many B&B owners since.

"I am aware of B&B businesses in the area which have already ceased trading because of the cost burden which had been placed on them as a result of these regulations.

"However, both chambers of commerce in Wigtownshire reacted quickly to address this issue by holding two public meetings in Wigtown and Stranraer attended by accommodation providers and by presenting these concerns to the Minister who had indicated then that a change of heart was imminent.

"We're delighted this is now the case and that the chambers of commerce were able to play a part in bringing this about."