Finlay Carson MSP

Galloway and West Dumfries

Licensing Boards Urged to Have Rethink on License Fees

Local authorities are being urged to rethink and waive annual licensing fees paid by pub bosses and restaurant owners.

Some licensing boards have already reduce their fee which can often total more than £900 after being approached by hard-pressed publicans.

However the move is not universal with others, including Dumfries and Galloway as well as Wigtownshire instructing them to pay up as normal.

Now local MSP Finlay Carson is calling on them to have an immediate change of heart after writing to the Scottish Government seeking clarity over the decision.

The Scottish Conservative MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries said: “It would appear from the response from the government that it is entirely down to the discretion of each Licensing Board to set the annual premise fee levels for their local area.

“When I pointed out that a number of Licensing Boards have decided to reduce these fees, the government has stated it is entirely a matter for each independent Licensing Board to consider and make a decision on.

“Given this is the case then I see no reason why the local Licensing Boards here cannot show some form of compassion considering pubs, bards and restaurants have been closed for months now.”

Mr Carson continued: “It seems grossly unfair that they are still expected to pay their annual licensing fees when they have no income coming in across the bar.

“I know from speaking to some publicans that times are extremely tough and any saving would be warmly welcomed.

“Wigtownshire Licensing Board has already expressed its sympathy towards helping local publicans and now they can do exactly that by waiving the annual licensing fees.”

In its letter to the MSP, Dumfries and Galloway Council rejected the idea of pausing fees, insisting they still require payment of the full statutory annual fee from premises licence holders.

It said: “All four Boards do, however, allow payment to be made via equal monthly or quarterly instalments tom assist licensing holders.”

However the Scottish Government has now said that this is not the case – leaving for the individual Licensing Board to decide.

It stated: “The Scottish Government has, however, encouraged Licensing Boards throughout the pandemic, where practical, to take a sympathetic and pragmatic approach when dealing with licensing matters.”