Section 4 - Duration, Expiry and Renewal of licences
49. The Scottish Government is considering specifying in the licensing regulations that a licence will be valid for a time-limited period. Currently, the Scottish Government is considering making this licence period three (3) years. A licence would therefore be valid for three years from the date of issue unless it is suspended, revoked or otherwise given up by the licence holder. The Scottish Government is also considering using the powers provided in section 95 of the 2016 Act to charge licence fees for initial licence applications and licence renewal applications.
50. We are seeking views on the consideration to require licences to be renewed every three years.
51. The Scottish Government's position is that requiring licence renewal is an important component of a robust licensing scheme for funeral director businesses and is in keeping with the intentions of the 2016 Act as passed by Parliament, in which licence renewal is provided for in section 95. Specifically, licence renewal will proactively generate communication of the businesses with the licensing authority; provide the licensing authority with a regularly scheduled opportunity to review the information on the licence (e.g. ownership, compliance officer, conditions of licence, criminal convictions notification etc.); provide the licensing authority with a regularly scheduled opportunity to review any conditions of licence; and create an approach in which funeral directors trigger an inspection of their business. We anticipate that this approach may also provide reputational benefits to funeral director businesses that may be associated with advertising to clients that they are subject to regular licence renewals and associated inspections.
52. The Scottish Government's position is that three years is an appropriate licence time-period because it balances the burden on businesses of applying for renewal with the administrative needs of a robust licensing scheme. It is perceived that a longer time period (e.g. five years) would be too long in between renewals (and the associated communication, reviews and routine inspection), given the risk associated with funeral director businesses. These risks relate to the nature of carrying on a business as a funeral director, in which the deceased are handled and prepared for burial or cremation. The Scottish Government is aware of risks to the dignity of the deceased from the Regulatory model including progressive licensing scheme for funeral directors: report to Scottish Ministers (2019); the Report of the National Cremation Investigation (2016); and complaints which have been received by existing Inspectors of Burial, Cremation and Funeral Directors.
53. It is also our position that annual renewals for all businesses would be overly resource-intensive for them and the licensing authority. We note that if complaints or other issues arise about a particular business, ad-hoc inspections can be conducted in between licence renewals.
54. We perceive that having an inspection triggered by a licence renewal application is appropriate for the implementation of a robust and transparent licensing scheme because it ensures that, at the time of determining a renewal application, Inspectors and the licensing authority are confident that the funeral director remains compliant with minimum standards of care of the deceased and funeral director practices.
55. We note that the proposed inspection regulations consultation sets out our intentions to develop a risk-based approach to routine inspections for burial authorities, cremation authorities, and funeral directors. In that consultation we note that Inspectors may determine it is appropriate to inspect funeral directors assessed to be at low risk approximately every three years, similar to other existing regulatory regimes. If both the inspection regime and licensing regime are implemented as proposed, we intend to synchronise the routine inspections of funeral directors with the inspections for licence renewal. This means that an inspection triggered by a licence renewal application can also serve as the routine inspection for a given low risk funeral director business.
56. For example, if a funeral director business is deemed to be at higher risk, and Inspectors deem it necessary to routinely inspect the business annually, then the business's routine inspections for Year 1 and Year 2 can stand alone. Then, in Year 3 when their licence requires renewal, their renewal inspection can also serve as their Year 3 routine inspection.
57. We note that the proposed requirement for licence renewals will present an administrative (and resource-related) burden to the licensing authority and funeral director businesses. However, the Scottish Government considers this to be proportionate for the implementation of a robust licensing system which ensures compliance with minimum standards of care for the deceased and funeral director practices, thus helping to improve public confidence in the funeral director sector.
58. The Scottish Government's position on licence renewals was informed by discussions with existing Inspectors of Burial, Cremation and Funeral Directors and the Licensing Regulations Working Group.
59. The main alternative to the Scottish Government's proposed approach of time-limited licences would be to grant licences in perpetuity. This would allow businesses to hold licences until they wish to cancel them. Inspectors would still be empowered to undertake regular inspections, and the Scottish Ministers and inspectors would still be able to take enforcement action where appropriate. However, this approach would not provide the benefits listed above, and our position is this could undermine the licensing scheme and reduce public confidence in the scheme.
Question 5 - Do you agree or disagree that funeral director licences should be time-limited, with funeral directors required to apply for renewal?
- Strongly agree
- Neither agree or disagree
- Strongly disagree
Question 6 - If licences are time-limited, do you think three (3) years is an appropriate length of time for a licence to last?
- 3 years is too long
- 3 years is appropriate
- 3 years is too short
- Don't know
Question 7 - Please provide any further comments about the appropriate length of time for a licence to last
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