Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today secured a commitment from the Scottish Government to examine new rules that could make the provision of student accommodation in Orkney more difficult.
At oral questions in Holyrood today, Mr McArthur raised the issue with the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP.
Speaking in the chamber, Mr McArthur highlighted that new tenancy arrangements being brought in this year will make it more difficult for smaller accommodation providers to meet the needs of students arriving in Orkney to take up courses at the university.
Mr McArthur used the example of one provider in Stromness who had been in contact to say that under the terms of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 he cannot guarantee students will leave after their term time ends, so in turn cannot offer accommodation to students for the next academic year, as he doesn’t know if rooms will be vacant. While those providing accommodation for 30 or more students are exempt from the new roles, smaller operators are not.
Given the make-up of student accommodation in Orkney, Mr McArthur suggested the provisions needed to be “island proofed”. In response, Ms Somerville MSP agreed to take up the issue with her ministerial colleagues.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur said:
“It has been good to see the growing success of Heriot Watt University’s campus in Stromness over recent years. That success, however, has presented its own challenges, not least in relation to student accommodation.
“Given that Orkney is generally reliant on relatively small-scale providers, it is concerning that the new tenancy arrangements may make it more difficult for them to manage student numbers from year to year.
“Of course, students should have security over their accommodation. The risk with the new rules, however, is that they potentially remove any certainty or security for students arriving to begin their studies in Orkney.
“This situation does not seem to be in the interests of students, landlords, the university or indeed the wider Orkney community. It is therefore helpful that the Minister has agreed to look into these concerns and see what can be done to strike a better balance.”