PLH renewals a ‘sorry mess’

Trade deserved better than a series of broken, quick fixes

Confusion has surrounded the personal licence renewals process

PERSONAL licence renewals: undoubtedly, the hottest licensing topic over the past several months, with the Scottish Government under fire for failing to give a clear steer on the procedure – and predictions that we could see a repeat of the refresher training meltdown in 2014.

The debacle began with concerns that the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 imposed burdensome requirements linked to three deadlines.

Taking licences expiring on August 31, 2019 as an example, a renewal applicant would need to:

• Submit a Scottish Certificate for Personal Licence Holders (SCPLH) with the application by May 31, 2019.

  Complete refresher training no later than August 31, 2019.

• Provide the licensing board with evidence of that training by November 30, 2019.

Where are we now?

In a previous legal column (SLTN August 30, 2018), I explained that the Scottish Government had issued a ‘communications document’ recommending that applicants should simply take the refresher course – the Scottish Certificate for Personal Licence Holders (Refresher) (SCPLH(R) – and use that certificate for the renewal.

It was a sticky tape solution that raised eyebrows in the licensing law community: a pragmatic approach, but one which licensing boards weren’t obliged to follow short of legal backing.

The government attempted to address that concern by issuing an ‘accreditation document’ last month. This time there was a legal basis: qualification regulations published in 2007.

The document helpfully made it clear that an SCPLH continued to be valid no matter when it was obtained – putting an end to the argument that ‘old’ certificates issued before the course content changed had somehow lapsed.

So far, so good; but the document also said that a refresher certificate “whenever obtained” could also be used for a renewal application.

That immediately set alarm bells ringing.

On the face of it – staying with the above example – a personal licence holder might use an ‘old’ refresher qualification awarded during the first five years of the licence for the purpose of the renewal; but that would not override the obligation to complete fresh refresher training by August 31.

The government’s response was to issue a new ‘accreditation document’ at the start of this month. The words “whenever obtained” have been removed and it’s now clear that a refresher certificate used to support a renewal must have been obtained within the five-year period prior to the expiry date. So, for licences expiring on
August 31, 2019, the certificate must have been awarded on or after September 1,

The end of the story?

Sadly, not quite.

A video released by the government on social media urges those affected by the May 31, 2019 deadline to book a refresher course quickly and warns that leaving submission of the application to the last minute could result in the loss of the licence.

But there’s a significant gap in this information.

Suppose a licence holder hasn’t managed to book a refresher course because of an oversight or the high demand for places. The video doesn’t explain that in such a case it would still be possible to make a renewal application simply using the SCPLH and keep the licence alive provided that refresher training was completed by August 31, 2019 and evidence supplied to the board no later than November 30, 2019.

This is a sorry mess that exposes a need to carry out a root and branch overhaul of personal licence renewals for the future.

It’s now almost two months since the renewal ‘window’ opened – and the trade deserved better than a series of broken, quick fixes that, even now, have left confused messages in their wake.          

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Jack Cummins is one of Scotland’s leading licensing lawyers. Every month he writes on licensing law and answers readers’ questions in SLTN.

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Jack Cummins is unable to enter into personal correspondence on readers’ questions. The advice offered in SLTN is published for information only. No responsibility for loss occasioned by persons acting or refraining from action as a result of material contained in SLTN can be accepted by the author or publisher.