Travelling Funfairs (Licensing) (Scotland) Bill

Closed 7 Dec 2020

Opened 12 Oct 2020

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


The Local Government and Communities Committee wants your views on a new Bill about travelling funfairs. This call for views runs until 7 December 2020.


The Travelling Funfairs (Licensing) (Scotland) Bill is a Member’s Bill introduced by Richard Lyle MSP on 29 April 2020. A Member’s Bill is introduced by an individual MSP, not the Scottish Government. You can read the Bill and accompanying documents here. Richard Lyle believes that is often too difficult and too expensive to get a licence for a travelling funfair and that this has put the whole sector at risk. He wants to make the system simpler across Scotland. He also wants to make it more uniform, meaning that councils will not take significantly different approaches.

Richard Lyle believes that the current licensing system puts at risk the way of life of showpeople. These are the families who have traditionally put on funfairs around the country, often over several generations. He hopes the Bill will help the community have a more viable future.   

The current law

Travelling funfairs are currently licensed under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. The 1982 Act allows local authorities to issue “public entertainment licences” Licences may be temporary (up to 6 weeks) or full (up to three years). Funfairs are amongst several types of public entertainments subject to these licensing rules.

It’s a key feature of the current system that councils may take different approaches. The policy memorandum and financial memorandum that Richard Lyle has published to accompany the Bill set out information about these different approaches, including on fees. One council says it charges £50 per temporary licence. Another applies a sliding scale, in one case charging over £6000. One council indicated it had banned travelling funfairs.  

What the Bill aims to do

The Bill begins with the following key provisions:

  • It takes travelling funfairs out of the licensing regime in the 1982 Act;
  • It provides a definition of “travelling funfair”, including a maximum duration of 6 weeks;
  • It states that anyone holding a travelling funfair needs a licence and that it is the local council that decides whether to grant one.

Most of the rest of the Bill concerns the new licensing regime. This includes—

  • Rules about the information the applicant needs to provide and in what format;
  • A requirement for the council to consult the police and fire and rescue service about each application;
  • Rules on time limits for deciding an application and for appeals against a decision;
  • Giving councils the power to impose certain types of condition when allowing a licence;
  • Giving council officials and the police a right of entry and inspection to ensure a licence is being complied with.

A key provision that the fee for a licence is to be £50. It can be revised upwards in future years but only in line with inflation.

Next steps

The call for view closes on 7 December.

Between now and the election next Spring, the Committee and the Parliament expect to have a very full work schedule, especially taking account of the ongoing impact of Covid-19.

Any proposal for new laws requires very careful consideration and there is a possibility the Bill might fall when the election is called. The Committee undertakes to consider carefully all  written submissions received on the Bill and to decide on next steps by early in the New Year.

Your views

The Committee wants to hear what you think about the Bill. You can answer as many of these questions as you want. Please give reasons for your answers where possible, bearing in mind that it might be possible to make some changes to the Bill as it goes through the Scottish Parliament.

The Covid-19 crisis has massively impacted the leisure industry, including funfairs.

It’s relevant to take the current situation into account in expressing views. However, the Committee is also looking ahead to a point when the virus is hopefully contained. We want to know whether the Bill will be good for the long term.     

Our questions for you

  1. The main aim of the Bill is to make the licensing system for travelling funfairs less restrictive and less expensive for applicants. Do you agree with this aim? Do you agree that the Bill will achieve this aim?  

A key way in which the Bill seeks to achieve this overall aim is to create a uniform approach, meaning that councils must all follow the same rules. (The current law allows councils to take different approaches to licensing travelling funfairs.) In answering question 1, you may wish to express a view on whether you agree that this is the best approach or that it is necessary to achieve the aims of the Bill. 

  1. Section 1 of the Bill sets out a definition of “travelling fairground”. Amongst other things, this provides that it cannot go on in one location for more than 6 weeks. (If the plan is for it to go on for longer than this, the current licensing law will apply.) Do you think the definition used in section 1 is a good one?   
  2. The Bill imposes a flat fee of £50 for a license application. This may be increased but only in line with “changes in the value of money” (section 5(2)(d) and (6)) In the vast majority of cases, this will be less than applicants are paying under the current law. Do you agree with this?
  3. Key provisions concerning a council’s decision-making role are that—
    1. The council must decide on an application within 21 days, otherwise it will be granted by default,
    2. It must allow a validly made application unless (a) the applicant is not a “fit and proper person” or (b) there are safety or health concerns about the funfair that would not be reasonably mitigated by attaching conditions to the licence,
    3. It may grant a licence subject to conditions (section 11 lists the type of conditions that may be imposed),
    4. It can only revoke a licence if (a) it becomes aware of a fact not previously shared that would have led it to decide the application differently or (b) if a condition or other provision of the licence is not met.

Are you satisfied that these provisions give councils the right level of control and choice over the licensing process?   

  1. We welcome views on any other aspect of the licensing system set out in the Bill that you consider important, for example, provisions on—
    1. What persons a council must consult before deciding any application (the Bill mentions two: the police, and the fire and rescue service),
    2. The matters that an applicant has to address in their application; for instance, whether you think anything important is missing,
    3. The right of an applicant to appeal a council’s decision to the Sheriff Principal,
    4. The criminal penalties set out in the Bill, for instance, where a person operates a travelling funfair without a licence or makes false statements in support of an application;
    5. powers to enter and inspect a travelling fairground: who may do so and for what reasons.
  1. The MSP who introduced the Bill thinks it will help protect the way of life of Scotland’s showpeople, a distinct community associated with putting on travelling fairgrounds. Do you agree the Bill will make a difference in this way?

    Any other comments on the Bill’s impact (positive or negative) on equalities, human rights and quality of life issues for local communities are also welcome as part of any response to question 6.
  2. What financial impact do you think the Bill will have – on operators of travelling fairgrounds, on councils, on local economies, or on others. 

How to submit your views

Please submit you views using the online submission form, linked to below.

The call for views closes on 7 December.

We welcome written views in English, Gaelic, Scots or any other language. 


  • LGHP