The Scottish Government has published details of amended regulations on plans to introduce a new fee for the renewal of personal licence applications, despite concerns raised by business groups.
The Licensing (Scotland) 2005 Act requires personal licences to be renewed every 10 years. The Scottish Government is proposing a £50 fee for renewal application.
With the licensing regime contained in the 2005 Act going live in September 2009, the 10-year point will be reached in September 2019. Many Scottish retailers will therefore fall into the first phase of renewal applications which opens on 31 August 2018.
The announcement follows a consultation on the issue which closed last month. In its submission to the Scottish Government, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), among others, raised concerns that the introduction of a fee for renewing a personal licence would place unnecessary additional costs on retailers.
The association also raised concerns that as some convenience retailers have multiple personal licence holders in each store, the introduction of a fee to renew personal licences could discourage them from renewing each licence and having new people become personal licence holders, ultimately meaning fewer qualified licence holders working in each store.
It is estimated that more than 56,000 personal licences are currently in force in Scotland. If every licence were renewed under the new fee, the cost to businesses would be £3m in total.
ACS has previously called on the Scottish Government to consider removing the requirement to renew personal licences altogether instead of charging for renewals – a policy that has been in place in England and Wales since 2015.
Commenting on the issue, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We urge the Scottish Government to look again at this policy which has long been deemed unnecessary by authorities in England and Wales. The introduction of personal licence fee renewals will introduce needless additional costs for retailers, especially those with more than one personal licence holder in each store.”
If the amended regulations on a personal licence fee are not challenged by MSPs, then the Scottish Government’s £50 fee will come into effect for renewals processed after October 1 2018.
The Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) has strongly criticised the decision to introduce the fee.
SGF head of public affairs Dr John Lee said: “Scottish government has caved into pressure from local authorities and put this significant cost burden directly onto retailers. We have argued strongly that this should be paid from the overall fees local authorities collect from the licensing system. This is supposed to be on a cost recovery basis, but we know many local authorities essentially make a profit from the fees.”