Under the terms of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 Ministers may issue guidance to Licensing Boards as to the exercise of their functions under the Act. I am pleased now to be able to issue updated guidance for Licensing Boards, which will also be of use to local authorities and other licensing stakeholders affected by the Act.
Whilst section 142 of the Act requires Boards to have regard to the guidance I would like to stress that Boards will have the flexibility to operate and take decisions in light of their particular circumstances (although, in terms of section 142(4), a Board deciding not to follow the guidance must give Ministers notice of that decision together with a statement of the reasons for it). That is a fundamental principle of the Act and it is important to maintain it. The guidance does not seek to instruct boards exactly how to make the Act work. It is simply intended to assist boards as they carry out their responsibilities under the Act. Ministers wish boards and their clerks to be creative and innovative and to implement the Act in a way that best meets local needs and circumstances, which can be informed by direct engagement and dialogue with local licensing forums. Guidance that is too prescriptive would hinder that creativity.
Finally I would like to make it clear that we remain open to suggestions about how the guidance might be revised in future. With that in mind my officials have already committed to on-gong engagement beyond publication of the updated guidance and we will therefore continue to engage with Boards, via SOLAR and other licensing stakeholders over the coming months, and beyond to ensure that any issues can be collectively considered and worked through. In addition, we expect that new issues may arise in light of experience gained whilst Boards develop their Licensing Policy Statements in the months ahead and we will be happy to consider and discuss any matters of concern. Any revised or new guidance will, of course, have to be laid before the Parliament, as the 2005 Act requires.
Elena Whitham MSP
Minister for Community Safety
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