Consultation Responses on Primary Authority Partnerships in Scotland

Scotland

We previously reported that the Scottish Government was consulting on an addition to the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill, regarding the introduction of Primary Authority Partnerships.

The consultation responses and an analysis by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) of these responses have now been published.

Background

The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced in March this year.

The purpose of the Bill is "to improve the way regulation is developed and applied: continuing to protect individuals, communities, and the environment, while also creating more favourable business conditions in Scotland and delivering benefits for the environment.".

The Bill proposes to introduce regulation making powers to encourage or improve consistency in the exercise of regulatory functions. It also proposes the creation of a duty to contribute to sustainable economic growth, and would introduce a code of practice in relation to the exercise of regulatory powers.

The Bill also contains a number of proposals in respect of SEPA and the application of environmental regulations. Other key changes include a change to the procedure for challenging offshore energy decisions and establishing a legislative link between planning fees and performance.

An amendment to the Bill was proposed to introduce single local authority points of contact for businesses in respect of certain devolved matters (Primary Authority Partnerships). The Primary Authority would provide tailored support in respect of a range of regulatory matters including, for example: consumer credit; fair trading; food safety and hygiene; health and safety; pollution control; and road safety. A business would therefore be able to receive consistent advice and support throughout Scotland, notwithstanding the fact that it has branches in various local authority areas. The costs of providing this service would be recoverable from the business.

The Scottish Government asked for responses to the consultation by 23 August.

Consultation Responses

There were 42 responses to the consultation, including responses from local authorities and related organisations; business and trade associations; individual business and professional bodies. The largest response was from local authorities.

The main findings of the consultation were as follows:

64% of respondents supported the introduction of Primary Authority Partnerships, 24% opposed the introduction, and 12% did not specify a preference;
Support from business and industry associations was unanimous at 100%;.
The response from local authorities was more split, with 47% in favour and 33% against; and
Local authorities did not support including planning, alcohol or civic licensing within the Primary Authority Partnerships.

Businesses were generally in favour of the proposal given the consistency, which would allow for more efficient running of business practices. However, concerns were expressed if the scheme was to depart from the current UK model.



Other concerns expressed by the respondents included the method of dispute resolution; the ability to take enforcement action when health and safety is at risk and the impact on quality and resources available to businesses not participating in the Primary Authority Partnership.



The majority of respondents, both businesses and local authorities, were in favour of specifying in legislation which devolved responsibilities would fall within the scope of the Primary Authority.



The analysis concludes that there is support for the Primary Authority model, but that this should not encroach on local democracy. Planning decisions are specifically identified as potentially not being appropriate for inclusion, given that decisions are made in accordance with local development plans.



Next Steps

The analysis states that the Scottish Government will bring forward stage 2 amendments to the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill in order to implement the Primary Authority arrangements.



The full analysis as well as individual responses to the consultation can be read herehere and .