Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and Voluntary Action Shetland are highlighting the serious financial pressure Shetland’s community halls are under following changes to the Scottish Government’s Water & Sewerage Exemption Scheme. Mr Scott will question the Government in Parliament this Thursday on whether it carried out an Islands Impact Assessment prior to the changes.
Under the previous scheme community halls were exempt from all charges but with the end of transition measures following a review in 2015, and with changes to the way charges are calculated, some community halls holding a permanent alcohol licence are now liable to pay water and sewerage charges of almost £2,000.
Commenting, Catherine Hughson Executive Officer of VAS said:
“This is yet another unjust tax on local communities who strive to provide much needed community facilities in their area.”
Voluntary Action Shetland (VAS) has produced two reports highlighting the importance of halls to our local communities and the serious financial impact of the increased charges. Alongside Tavish Scott MSP and the Shetland Halls Association, VAS have persistently called on the Scottish Government to re-instate the exemption for halls holding a permanent alcohol licence.
The Scottish Government claims that ending the exemption supports its alcohol strategy and ensures there is no unfair competition between licensed premises. However, most community halls in Shetland are far from other licensed premises.
Tavish Scott MSP added:
“Halls need permanent alcohol licences to cater for the varied events they host. They are run by dedicated volunteers and rely on this income to keep operating. They don’t compete with other licensed premises.
“The Scottish Government’s indifference to our repeated calls to reverse this damaging change to the exemption criteria shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the geography of Shetland and the role of public halls in our rural communities.
“The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 places a duty on Scottish Ministers to give due consideration to the effect of any policy changes on the islands. We will continue to make the case for a retrospective island communities impact assessment into these charges.