Thank you for your e-mail of 3 March about changes to public entertainment licensing arrangements. I have been asked to reply.
I understand reporting of this issue has raised concerns on the impact to a number of different types of free event. However, I would like to reassure you that the intention of the change in legislation was never for all free events to be licensed.
The effect of the change in legislation was to allow local licensing authorities to include free-to-enter events within the terms of licensable activities if they so choose.
There is no requirement to license free events. This change in the law was in response to concerns that had been raised about the lack of control local licensing authorities had over large scale free events that attract significant public safety and public order issues. It was never envisaged that all free events should be licensed.
However, it is important to stress that the new law does not mean that local licensing authorities are required to insist on free-to-enter events having a public entertainment licence. The discretion lies entirely with the local licensing authority to determine what types of events they licence. The public entertainment licence is an optional licence. It is for the local authority therefore to decide whether to licence public entertainment and if they do, what specific types of entertainment they wish to include. There is nothing whatsoever in the law to prevent a licensing authority from exempting all or certain categories of free-to-enter events or particular types of cultural events from the requirement to have a public entertainment licence.
The cost of the licence is also for the licensing authority to determine and therefore, even if the local authority decided to insist on certain free-to-enter events having a licence, it would be open to them to charge a lower fee than would be charged for commercial events.
I have written to all Licensing Authority Convenors to clarify the intention of the change in the law and to encourage them to ensure any changes they decide to make to their licensing provisions do not have unintended consequences. The letter recognises that as 2012 is the Year of Creative Scotland, authorities should take into account the contribution of the artistic community. I understand that an increasing number of local authorities are taking steps to ensure small-scale free events, particularly cultural and community events, are exempt.
It does remain the fact however that the system of public entertainment licensing, in common with the other optional licensing regimes under the Civic Government Act (Scotland) 1982, is a wholly local regime. This provides flexibility to local licensing authorities to administer and manage the system according to local needs.
I hope this reassures you that the artistic community can continue to make their valuable contribution to cultural life in Scotland.