Is proposed fit and proper test fit or proper?

By Gillian McKenzie

WHEN Scotland’s top licensing lawyers gathered in Glasgow late last week for Scottish Licensing Law & Practice’s annual conference, the new licensing Bill was unsurprisingly the hot topic of conversation.

Understandably, some of the proposals outlined in the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill have caused real concern.
The ‘fit and proper’ person test, last seen in the 1976 Act, is one example.
In general terms, a measure designed to ensure only ‘fit and proper’ persons are licensed to sell alcohol is absolutely right.
However, the latest version outlined in the Bill lacks definition; and licensing lawyers fear that may mean it is misused.
As Jack Cummins points out on page ten of this issue, “there’s every reason to believe the test will be operated with worrying elasticity”.
Equally worrying is a proposal in the Bill which would allow boards to consider ‘spent’ convictions – a U-turn on the current position, where, under the 2005 Act, ’spent’ convictions are excluded from consideration.
Speaking at the SLLP conference, Archie Maciver expressed concern over the proposed new approach, saying he is “not altogether sure that dragging matters up from many years before is particularly equitable”.
It’s a very good point.
The suggestion that a ‘spent’ conviction from decades ago could be used to assess a person’s ‘fitness’ to sell alcohol seems wholly unfair.
It remains to be seen if and how this, and other measures, are altered as the Bill progresses.