THE decision to set a personal licence renewal fee of £50 has been roundly criticised by licensing experts, amid ongoing uncertainty about training requirements.
The Scottish Government has now confirmed that, from October 1, there will be a charge of £50 to apply to renew a personal licence, matching the £50 fee for an initial licence application.
But the announcement has drawn fire from licensing professionals, with some arguing the fee is too low while others continue to press for the renewals process to be scrapped altogether.
In a statement Ronnie McNicol, convenor of North Ayrshire licensing board, said the £50 fee would not cover the costs associated with processing applications.
“This fee does nothing to assist the expected difficulties of the personal licence renewal process,” said McNicol.
“It is important that the licensing system is self funding.
“If central government is to retain the right to set local fees, these need to be set at a realistic level.”
Licensing consultant and training provider Robin Morton, of Robin Morton Licensing, agreed.
“Given the additional work boards are being asked to do on immigration checks, etc. I believe £75 and £50 for first and renewals respectively would be fair,” he said.
However, Morton added that it would “make much more sense” to abandon the licence renewals process altogether, charge £100 for the initial application fee and then require refresher training every five or even ten years.
He was supported in this by licensing lawyer Andrew Hunter, of Harper Macleod, who said it was “odd that a premises licence can persist in perpetuity on payment of an annual fee but a personal licence does not roll on in the same fashion”.
Hunter added that the announcement of the fee does nothing to clear up the ongoing uncertainty over what training is required to renew a licence.
Last month Holyrood issued a ‘communications document’ to licensing boards, recommending that the half-day SCPLH refresher course should be sufficient for licence holders to renew their licence.
It was quickly pointed out by lawyers that this conflicts with the wording of the 2005 Act.
“There is still a concerning silence on the ‘elephant in the room’, being the sorting out of the legal difference between the Scottish Government ‘communications document’ and the wording of the 2005 Act,” said Hunter.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government is continuing to work with relevant stakeholders to seek to support the operation of the personal licence holder ten-year point.
“We expect to make further announcements shortly in response to the concerns raised.”