The city of Glasgow is leading a national campaign against new licensing regulations that could see Scotland’s arts scene damaged after its own council agreed to keep current laws in place,
Under changes to the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act, free and temporary events could be required to obtain a license from April 1. Previously this had only been the case for events to which admission was charged.
In Glasgow the new legislation could mean non-commercial events will have to pay a minimum of £124 for a license or even up to £7,500 for commercial events, based on last year’s figures.
Campaigners claim the cost and bureaucracy involved in the new licensing regulations will stifle the vibrant arts culture of Scotland’s cities. Concerns have also been raised that artists might leave areas in which the new laws are applied.
Francis McKee, director of Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts, said
Scotland’s creative economy could be “cut off at the knees” by the new legislation.
He said: “If you look at t he way strategies work in Scotland, it’s all been based around large-scale cultural events that can bring people to the country and put money into the general economy.
“In a business sense, it’s really short-sighted.”
Ashley Holdsworth, owner of textile studio Make it Glasgow, empathised with art enthusiasts whose licensing regulation is still uncertain.
She added: “The money side is alarming, but to think that any exhibition I hold would potentially have to be approved by a politician from the city council is something I find deeply troublesome.”
Members of Glasgow City Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee last Thursday voted unanimously against a license fee for temporary and non-commercial events.
The committee’s chair, Councillor Frank Docherty, said Glasgow City Council had objected to the new legislation from the start, and encouraged other councils to follow suit.
He said: “Every other council is big enough and hopefully brave enough to take the same stance as Glasgow. I think they would be making a big mistake if they do not do what we’ve done.”
Edinburgh have now joined Glasgow’s online petition against the ‘arts tax’, which has attracted support from national bodies such as Creative Scotland and garnered over 14,000 signatures in the three weeks since its launched.
Glasgow campaign organiser Kris Haddow confirmed he is currently in talks with North Ayrshire council to do the same.
He said: “We have written to all councils asking them to clarify their position ASAP and hope to collate all the responses on to one central campaign website as soon as we can.”