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Changes to licensing law plans
The Scottish Government has dropped plans to bring in new legislation which could have led to charities acting as 'market operators' having to apply for a licence.
The provisions were contained within the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill currently going through Parliament, based on recommendations from a Task Group set up by the previous administration which reported in 2004.
However, after concerns were raised by charities and community groups, Ministers have agreed that the plans should now not go ahead.
Announcing the news, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:
"The provisions in this part of the Bill were as a result of recommendations from a Task Group who carried out an extensive review of civic government licensing across Scotland. Their recommendation was that charities should no longer be exempt from having to apply for a market operators licence.
"However, we have received many representations and understand the concerns that the change contained within the Bill will impact on fundraising events in general.
"We want to work with, not against the charity sector so my ministerial colleagues and I have therefore decided that the proposal should not go ahead.
"We've listened to the concerns raised by the charity sector - and we've acted.
"This Government wants to help, not hinder the fantastic work being done to support local good causes and we want to do everything we can to support charitable organisations in Scotland.
"We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with charities who are helping to improve lives right across the country."
The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill is the largest piece of legislation introduced by the current administration. It is wide ranging and includes measures to create a Scottish Sentencing Council to ensure greater transparency and consistency in the sentencing process; make community sentences more robust; immediate and visible; tackle serious and organised crime; and protect the rights of victims and witnesses.
Section 40 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 allows local authorities to require the operators of private markets (ie markets at which goods are offered by more than one seller for sale to the public) to be licensed. There is an exemption for functions held by charitable, religious, youth, recreational, community, political or similar organisations. The Criminal Justice & Licensing Bill would remove that exemption. But it would still be for individual local authorities to decide whether to license market operators at all and, if they do, whether to require licences for charitable etc. groups. Licensing authorities have discretion as to whether to charge reduced or no fees to such organisations.
The previous administration set up the Task Group on civic government licensing. The Group included representatives from COSLA, the police and business interests. They consulted voluntary organisations and other interested parties before making the recommendation on licensing of market operators that the Bill implements. The potential impact on charitable organisations was considered by the Task Group, which considered that licensing authorities already had the necessary flexibility to ensure that charitable events were not unduly penalised.
Section 125 of the Criminal Justice & Licensing (Scotland) Bill contains the element of the Bill concerning the removal of the exemptions from the requirement for market operators licences for churches, charitable & similar organisations. The Government will lodge amendments to remove this proposal at Stage 2 of the Parliamentary process, expected to begin in February/March 2010.