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Council made dash for cash but can do a u-turn

By SPP Reporter

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Sir – Voluntary groups, societies, gala committees and fete organisers throughout the Highlands are waking up to new requirements, first to license events when they never had to before, and second to pay through the nose for the privilege.

Communities organising Jubilee celebrations are already too late to get licensed, if they have not started already.

And any society, for example, which hitherto met in unlicensed premises, needs a public entertainment license right now. Anybody who hasn’t complied already, who didn’t know about this, risks a fine of £500 today.

Asked about this last week, Cllr Ian Ross simply said: “the Government made us do it”.

Now Cllr Peter Corbett, Chair of Highland Council’s Licensing Committee, is quoted in the press saying the Council had been landed with the legislation and had to carry it out.

Neither statement is true, and both gentlemen should withdraw their remarks. It would help, too, if either of them had troubled to read the legislation they are operating.

Let’s help them. Public entertainment licences are issued under section 41 of the Civic Government Act (Scotland) 1982. Section 9 of the same Act states that such licensing is optional. Councils may resolve which classes of activity will, and will not, be controlled. Yes, there was a problem with the 1982 Act. It prevented Councils from licensing large events, like raves and rock festivals, if entry was free. In 2010 that obstacle was removed. But nowhere did anybody say, for example, a Queen’s Jubilee barbecue had to be licensed.

Acts of Parliament can be hard to read, but even the dimmest councillor could understand the Government’s guidance notes which say: “this allows licensing authorities to control large-scale public entertainments that are free to enter but authorities have discretion whether to license events such as gala days or school fetes.”

So Highland Council knowingly made a dash for cash, and now there’s uproar. Well, they have it in their power to apologise, do a u-turn, do it quickly, and certainly do it in time for the Jubilee – Graham Phillips, Unes House, Littleferry, Golspie.

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