Scottish Councils: Scrap Public Entertainment Licence Fees
  • Petitioned The Scottish Government

This petition was delivered to:

The Scottish Government
Edinburgh City Council
Glasgow City Council

Scottish Councils: Scrap Public Entertainment Licence Fees

    1. Kris Haddow
    2. Petition by

      Kris Haddow

      Paisley, United Kingdom

The implementation of hefty fees to obtain a Public Entertainment Licence for exhibitions and events—including those to be held free of charge—is practically extortion and will cripple grassroots art and culture in Glasgow, Edinburgh and beyond. Small, independent venues such as coffee shops who support artists and performers by hosting free events will not be able to sustain the fees announced. 

It is a tax on art and entertainment.

All Scottish councils must urgently review and scrap the proposed fees, particularly those to be imposed on free events and on temporarily licensing small venues.


The Bigger Picture


This petition is a response to the announcement that from 1 April 2012, a licence will be required in Scotland to hold free events such as exhibitions and performances. Previously a licence was only required for events charging admission. We, the undersigned, believe this change will be damaging to the foundations of Scotland's arts and entertainment communities at every level.

While we understand that legislation is necessary for larger events, the current wording of the bill could potentially damage a thriving infrastructure of grassroots events in all art forms as well as small-to-medium scale cultural organisations. These include pop-up exhibitions in temporary spaces, music gigs in record shops, galleries and flats, free exhibitions or film screenings in publicly-funded arts centres, small-scale independently promoted music events, literary readings and storytelling events in libraries, folk music sessions and other spontaneous and ad hoc artistic activities across the entire country. The legislation may also potentially impact on community organisations, clubs and activity groups, and student and charity event organisers.

Based on previous years, the application fee for a Public Entertainment Licence ranges from £120 to £7500. It also requires several months’ notice to the Council and 21 days of public notice via signage posted on location. While many groups and organisations simply do not and will not have the practical resources to undertake such weighty administration, at an artistic level, such a lengthy process would potentially undermine the spontaneity and flexibility of artists working in temporary spaces.

Scotland's arts and entertainment communities are currently thriving, with success stories at every turn.

In Glasgow, bands such as Franz Ferdinand, and artists including Turner Prize winners Richard Wright and Martin Boyce, have all come up through a vibrant grassroots scene. Glasgow School of Art was recently awarded a major grant by The Arts and Humanities Research Council to study the phenomenon known as the "Glasgow Miracle”.

In Edinburgh, novelist Irvine Welsh first came to prominence in the mid 1990s via a thriving spoken-word scene led by those behind litzine Rebel Inc, which became an international phenomenon. Angus Farquhar's NVA Organisation is currently preparing Speed of Light, a major outdoor project for Edinburgh International Festival and the London 2012 Olympics.

All of these independent grassroots initiatives have helped put Scotland on the map artistically, and have fed into the arts infrastructure at both a national and international level.

If all public events are required to apply for a license regardless of size or entry charge, freedoms of expression and assembly will also be compromised.

Scotland has a proud tradition of producing art in all forms out with the major institutions that date back to the early days of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The changes to Public Entertainment Licensing would compromise both its history and its future, and cannot be enforced as they stand. 

This petition demands: 

1.  That all 32 of Scotland's local authorities clarify their position on the new legislation, and make sensible exemptions for all free to enter events, plus those attended by 200 hundred people or less.

2.  That the Scottish Government issue proper guidance to all Scottish councils to ensure that all not-for-profit arts events attended by 200 people or less can operate free of unnecessary legislation, and consider repealing the amendments should they prove unworkable.

3.  That comparative legislation from Westminster be taken in to consideration. Westminster takes a more enlightened view on licensing events in England and Wales, and Holyrood should look to this for guidance when redrafting, revising or constituting new legislation.

If all 32 local authorities along with the Scottish Government take urgent action on this, the next generation of Scotland's artists will be allowed to thrive, thus ensuring Scotland's reputation for creative innovation at every level.


"BBC News." School of Art awarded grant to probe 'Glasgow Miracle'. January 18, 2012.


Glasgow City Council briefing note:

Example of proposed fees: 


Initial press coverage: 



Recent signatures


    1. Glasgow City Council kick off public consultation on PEL

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      The Glasgow City Council public consultation on Public Entertainment Licences has now opened. Below is a link to their website which gives some background along with a further link to a short survey. Please take part and ensure your voice is heard in this vital campaign.

    2. Artists to demonstrate against new 'tax on art'

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      ARTISTS from across the country, backed by figures such as The Proclaimers and Irvine Welsh, are to hold a day of protest against a change in licensing law branded a "tax on art".

      On Sunday, artists will engage in protests – titled A Little April Tomfoolery – across the country. These include a "massed ukulele intervention" in Glasgow and events in Edinburgh.

      Craig and Charlie Reid of The Proclaimers, writer Irvine Welsh and actress and director Cora Bissett criticised the tax.

      The Reid brothers said: "We strongly support this campaign, anything that hinders artistic expression and creativity should be opposed by everybody."

      Welsh, author of Trainspotting among other novels, said: "It's a brilliant idea if the intention is to destroy grass-roots culture in Scotland – a stupid one if there's any other agenda."

      Read the article in full at the link below:

    3. Scottish Government Replies to the Public Entertainment Licensing debate

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Over the past week, statements have been made by Alex Salmond (First Minister for Scotland), Kenny MacAskill (Cabinet Secretary for Justice) and Fiona Hyslop (Cabinet Secretary For Culture and External Affairs).

      Fiona Hyslop sums up by saying:

      “The Scottish Government are clear though that we and the public will expect Councils to continue to support the fantastic individual, grassroots and community cultural activity which takes place particularly in this Year of Creative Scotland. It is our firm view that these decisions are taken locally so that that local needs and requirements are reflected rather than a one size fits all approach is taken.”

      The statements have been collected together on the blog linked under this article where they can be read in full:

    4. Edinburgh postpones licensing plans for free events

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Edinburgh Council has postponed plans to charge money to hold art exhibitions, book readings and live events in the city.

      Councillors on the licensing committee voted to put the proposal out to public consultation.

      The legislation was due to be introduced across Scotland on 1 April.

      Edinburgh is the latest Scottish council to reject the proposals. Glasgow has already postponed the new legislation for six months.

      Aberdeen council hopes to avoid charging small groups altogether.

      It was introduced to license large-scale free events around Scotland, but local council's have been discovering it could also have a negative impact at a grass roots level.

      The proposal have also been criticised by members of Scotland's arts community.

    5. Reached 17,500 signatures
    6. Highland Council admit mistake over public entertainment licences

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      “CONTROVERSIAL fees for public entertainment licences in the Highland look set to be vetoed by licensing chiefs, who admit the proposed charges would be unfair.

      “Community and voluntary groups, charities and other organisations needing the licence were told by Highland Council in January they would be charged from 1st April because of amended legislation.

      “The authority said the revised Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 would mean some public events would need a licence which could cost from £153 to more than £10,000 for three years’ permission to hold commercial outdoor events for more than 30,000 people.

      “However, the changes provoked a storm of protest and groups behind events like galas, school fêtes and senior citizens’ parties feared they would have to stump up hundreds of pounds.

      “The board has now decided to oppose the legislation changes and will make a recommendation to the full council to scrap the proposed fess.”

      Full article linked below:

    7. Small Edinburgh arts events to be exempted from licence crackdown

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      “FREE arts events with a capacity of under 200 are set to escape controversial new licensing rules in Edinburgh under an apparent climbdown from councillors.

      “Art exhibitions, poetry recitals, book readings, cabaret events, magic shows, and live music sessions in temporary venues are likely to be exempted from the “burden” of needing a public entertainment licence.

      “However the exemptions will not be in place when the new legislation comes into force on 1 April, as the city council is being forced to carry out a full consultation on which free events should be charged for a permit.

      “A final decision will not be taken until a meeting of the council’s licensing committee on 20 April and it is not clear whether the exemptions will take effect immediately.”

      Full article linked below:

    8. Anger as council says children's Easter egg hunt needs licence

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      “A community group has criticised a council after it was told it would need a public entertainment licence for a children's Easter egg hunt.

      “Myra Carus, of Rosemarkie Amenities Association, said it was ridiculous the group was having to shell out £153 for a free community event.

      “Highland Council said charges for some free events would be required from April due to changes in legislation.”

      Full article linked below:

    9. Stage is set for artistic April Fools Day protest against new red tape

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      “HUNDREDS of artists are set to stage a day of unlicensed events across Scotland’s capital on the day controversial new legislation comes into force.

      “There appears to be widespread confusion across the country over new rules, which would mean organisers need to seek an official licence for all free events.

      “A day of artistic “disbodience” is being planned for April Fool’s Day in Edinburgh if the city council enforces legislation on Friday.

      “More than 600 people have now joined a Facebook site set up over the weekend to promote A Little April Tomfoolery, which will start in the early hours of the morning, to coincide with the date councils can deploy the new legislation.

      “Talks are underway to extend the initiative across the country, with growing numbers of councils planning to enforce the new rules, despite claims they threaten to kill off grass-roots arts activity by imposing too much red tape and bureaucracy.”

      Full article linked below:

    10. Joyce McMillan (The Scotsman): Big brother state a sign of the times

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      The campaign has been discussed with further coverage in today's Scotsman.

      “On one hand, 21st-century Scotland prides itself on the no-holds-barred, grass-roots-up brilliance of its arts scene and Scotland’s SNP Government has not been slow to associate itself with that scene.

      “Yet on the other hand, the same government introduces a casually authoritarian and sloppily-drafted piece of bureaucracy that could, overnight, make spontaneous pop-up arts initiatives almost impossible.”

      Joyce McMillan goes on to say:

      “As usual, in other words, Scotland’s noisy creative community are acting as an early-warning system for our growing sloppiness about issues of freedom. If the Scottish Government wants to send the right, robust signal about its commitment to creativity and the arts, it will now make a statement apologising for its error, and will issue clear guidance to local authorities that they should not apply this legislation to small free events.”

      Full article linked below.

    11. PRESS RELEASE: Scottish Labour accuse SNP of hypocrisy over arts licensing

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      The SNP stand accused of hypocrisy today, after SNP councillors in Edinburgh are revealed to be introducing a charging regime for arts events that the SNP have attacked in Glasgow.

      Although Glasgow Council has suspended the proposals for Public Entertainment Licence rules and charges, the SNP-run City of Edinburgh Council is to levy them in a similar way as originally proposed. The charges arise from laws passed at the Scottish Parliament by the SNP government.

      Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Patricia Ferguson MSP, said:

      "I guess the SNP are hoping people in Glasgow don’t see what they are doing in Edinburgh. Although this is deeply embarrassing, it underlines the need for national guidance from the Scottish Government.

      "It is not good enough to introduce a law, say councils must comply with that law, but then offer no guidance on how they can do that.

      "These things should be out in the open and I want to see national guidelines drawn up."

    12. Coverage on BBC Radio Scotland's Culture Café

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Campaigner Kris Haddow and Herald Journalist Phil Miller spoke to Clare English of BBC Radio Scotland's Culture Café today about the impending licence changes. They discussed how the campaign has rolled out nationally to combat the threat to grassroots arts across Scotland, and how many remain confused about the disparate rules that have started to appear in each area through lack of guidance on how to apply the new legislation.

      You can listen to the programme on the iPlayer via the link below until 6th March.

    13. Reached 15,000 signatures
    14. Glasgow City Councillor calls on Government to revisit licensing regime

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Following Thursday's announcement that Glasgow City Council will not implement licence fees on 1st April pending a six month consultation, Councillor Frank Docherty has called upon the Scottish Government to revisit the country's entire licensing regime, branding the amendments to public entertainment licences “ridiculous and ill-judged”.

      He goes on to say: “There was a real opportunity to simplify licensing into one piece of legislation, with the same process for dealing with all applications, whether for the sale of alcohol or for burgers from a van.”

      “Licensed activities can affect us all. It is important that individuals, businesses and other organisations can work to a clear regulatory framework that places a priority upon public safety. It is baffling that England and Wales have a modern, single piece of licensing legislation which is easily understood and applied by all, but we in Scotland do not.”

      His full letter, addressed to Nicola Sturgeon, can be read below.

    15. Success as Glasgow clarifies public entertainment licence rules

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Glasgow City Council have clarified their position on Public Entertainment Licence rules—great news for Glasgow, but many Scottish Councils have still to react. More on this in the next update.

      Glasgow today announced that they will not require a licence for events which are for a temporary period and are of a non-commercial nature. The committee also concluded that a six month review and consultation on how all forms of public entertainment are licensed in the city should be undertaken. The policy to ensure no licences will be required for free public entertainment events during the period of the review and consultation, which is expected to get underway in the near future.

      Small-scale charitable and community based events will now remain unaffected by the change to the law. Also, places such as cafes which display art work will not require a licence while pop-up shops that sell art will be similarly untouched by licensing law.

      The full announcement from Glasgow is linked:

    16. Scotsman's coverage as the campaign goes national

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Excellent column in today's Scotsman on why this is a national campaign and deserves support:—

      “It’s easy to see why Glasgow woke up to the problem first. Much of the city’s cultural identity, in recent years, has been built upon its world-renowned DIY art and music scene. Franz Ferdinand famously played their first gigs in a derelict warehouse called the Chateau, which staged gigs and exhibitions that were talked about internationally – and not just because of the Franz connection.

      “Please support this campaign. Most towns don’t have an Alasdair Gray or an Alex Kapranos to make a big public fuss. Instead, they need emails and letters to councillors. Lots of them. So write one.”

    17. Reached 12,500 signatures
    18. Fears artists could quit Glasgow over licensing law

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      CAMPAIGNERS against the introduction of licence charges for free exhibitions have warned any disparity in interpreting the law between local authorities could mean artists presenting their work outside Glasgow in the future.

      They cautiously welcomed Glasgow's decision to "ignore" the law until the autumn but said that, when charges are eventually brought in, artists could choose to exhibit elsewhere to avoid the fees.

      Full story linked below…

    19. BBC Reporting Scotland—Worry over licence fee for arts

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Arts bodies and community groups are concerned changes to local licensing laws could make it difficult or impossible for them to hold small-scale events.

      Currently some small events do not need to be licensed by councils.

      However, they will now have to be licensed by April and the licences will come at a cost.

      Link to news report attached.

    20. Fears licence law will stifle grassroots creativity

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Further coverage in today's Scotsman as the campaign goes nationwide.

    21. The Herald "Creative Scotland in warning over licensing changes"

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Coverage of the campaign continues in today's Herald.

    22. Reached 10,000 signatures
    23. Statement from Creative Scotland

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      We have received the following statement from Creative Scotland:

      “Creative Scotland accepts that the motivation behind the legislation is to ensure that large-scale free events are well run and that audiences and participants are safe; irresponsible organisers often try to avoid the costs of things like stewarding which can put audiences at risk. Local authorities recognise the benefits, for residents and the local economy, that a thriving cultural community brings. Our understanding of the legislation is that individual local authorities can choose which types of events need a licence and how those events are defined – naturally, we expect that councils will interpret the legislation to the benefit of their creative community and would not undermine the healthy development of emerging talent and new audiences.”

      — Kenneth Fowler | Director of Communications and External Relations

    24. Meeting with Glasgow City Council's Licensing Board

      Kris Haddow
      Petition Organizer

      Today Glasgow City Councillor Frank Docherty and Mairi Millar, Legal Manager (Licensing) met with Sinead Dunn of our campaign to discuss the impending License changes.

      Councillors are set to vote next week on an amendment to the bill, which would exempt some temporary events from requiring a license. This is based on the much-reported legal briefing circulated to councillors yesterday.

      Although this shows promise thanks to the success of our campaign, the question remains as to whether the national legislation on Entertainments Licensing still has the potential to suffocate Scotland’s wider creative communities. There is a big difference between being temporarily exempt and the existence of rules in the first place, and this contradiction between local policy and national legislation must be formally clarified.

      Saturday's planned campaign meeting is proceeding at The Art School, Sauchiehall St, Glasgow. Click the Facebook link for event details and speakers.

    25. Reached 9,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

      • about 2 years ago

      Art should not need to be licensed. You will restrict artistic endeavour

    • Angela Kininmonth ABERFELDY, UNITED KINGDOM
      • about 2 years ago

      Because it is causing hardship to small communities.

      • about 2 years ago

      will kill new talent starting out and force it to move to england to survive

      • about 2 years ago

      I am a musician

    • Ian Dolan-Betney KILLIN, UNITED KINGDOM
      • about 2 years ago

      Lest we forget?


    Develop your own tools to win.

    Use the API to develop your own organizing tools. Find out how to get started.