MSPs question need for licensing of fundraising sales

SCVO garners support for campaign

The SCVO has welcomed the support of MSPs in its campaign against the Scottish Government's proposal to require sector organisations to buy a market operator's licence when they host fundraising sales.

The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill would allow councils to start charging charities, community groups and religious organisations when they hold events such as village fetes and bring-and-buy sales where more than one seller is involved. The average cost of a licence is £200 a year, according to the SCVO.

The bill is being scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee, which will publish its reactions before the bill begins its passage through the main parliament.

After the SCVO made representations, several committee members expressed concerns about the removal of the exemption for charities during an oral hearing with Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Justice, on Tuesday.

MacAskill said: "This is about allowing local authorities to use the common sense they are born with to represent the areas they are accountable to. They can visit the village hall and in many cases know the people involved personally."

But Bill Butler, deputy convenor of the committee, questioned whether it was realistic in the existing economic climate to expect councils to waive charges for charities.

He said the new arrangements could lead to the "absurd and unfair" situation in which different branches of the same organisation would be charged different amounts by different local authorities for holding fundraising fairs.

Robert Brown, Liberal Democrat MSP for Glasgow, described the measures as a "sledgehammer to crack a nut" and called for more assurances from the Scottish Government on the scope of councils' discretion to set charges depending on the type and size of event.

Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of the SCVO, said she was pleased MSPs had responded to its concerns.

"The proposal to remove the exemption has the potential to be devastating for the sector, particularly for grassroots organisations that rely on income from fundraising sales," she said. "We are now looking at the next steps to ensure that charities and community groups are not hit by yet another expense in these challenging economic times."

A spokeswoman for the Institute of Fundraising endorsed the SCVO's stance. "We don't want to give local groups any more problems," she said. "Public health and safety is important, but the IoF's codes of practice cover this."

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