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Primary Authority Consultation

The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 creates a legal framework for implementation of Primary Authority arrangements relating to the Devolved Regulatory responsibilities of Local Authorities in Scotland.

Primary Authority allows a business, operating in two or more local authorities, to form a partnership with one local authority in order to receive tailored advice and support in relation to a range of regulations.  Primary authority helps ensure local regulation is consistent and delivers efficiencies for both business and regulators.

The consultation on Primary Authority Partnerships relating to the Devolved Regulatory Responsibility of Local Authorities in Scotland sought views on proposals and options for the scope of a primary authority scheme in Scotland and how it would operate in practice.  These aspects are of vital importance to ensure that primary authority partnerships in Scotland deliver concurrently for the local community and business.   The closing date for responses was 25 June 2015. These responses can be viewed here with the analysis of these responses can be found at this link.

Further background

The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Parliament in March 2013.  However it does not feature a specific and additional proposal which emerged from a number of business responses to the consultation: that some equivalent of UK Primary Authority partnerships should be adopted in Scotland.  The UK Government’s established Primary Authority initiative allows a business which has branches in a number of local authority areas to form a partnership with one local authority in order to receive tailored support in relation to a specified range of regulation.  That “primary” authority is resourced by the business to assist in three ways: by issuing assured advice, co-ordinating enforcement action across all locations used by the business, and developing an inspection plan for the business as a whole.

The Consultation on Primary Authority Arrangements Relating to the Devolved Regulatory Responsibilities of Local Authorities in Scotland – carried out between June and August 2013 – sought views on whether some equivalent of the UK Primary Authority initiative should be adopted in Scotland, in the context of Scottish regulation.

An analysis of the 42 responses was done by COSLA and the Scottish Government.  The key findings are:

  • The majority of respondents (64%) supported the introduction of Primary Authority partnerships although this support was frequently qualified.  24% were opposed while the remaining 12% did not indicate a preference.
  • 100% of the businesses and industry associations who responded supported Primary Authority.
  • Support from local authorities was mixed, with 47% supporting Primary Authority and 33% opposing it.
  • 79% of respondents supported listing the specific devolved legislation that would be in scope.
  • There was no local authority support for including planning, alcohol or civic licensing within Primary Authority partnerships – although this was not the view of business.
  • 64% agreed with the proposed definition of eligibility.
  • 90% agreed with the focus on assured information and advice, inspection plans and enforcement action.
  • 86% supported an equivalent of the UK fee and charging regime for cost recovery.

This analysis of stakeholder views confirms three major themes:

  • There is clear support for a Primary Authority model to be available in Scotland as part of our Better Regulation toolkit.
  • Primary Authority should not encroach on the legitimacy of local democracy.
  • Operational factors will be important in ensuring that Primary Authority in Scotland delivers concurrently for communities and for businesses.

The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act (which received Royal Assent in February 2014) creates a legal framework for implementation of Primary Authority arrangements relating to the Devolved Regulatory responsibilities of Local Authorities in Scotland.