Agenda item 2 is our third oral evidence session on the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill. We have one panel of witnesses, who will discuss the alcohol licensing provisions in the bill.
Before I introduce the witnesses, I would like to clarify the committee’s approach to who we ask to appear before us and the general criteria that we adopt. This is directed towards those from the public sector, including local authorities in particular, although for others our approach is similar.
When deciding who to invite, we look to achieve a balance from across the country that covers both rural and urban. We also have in mind coverage from affluent and less affluent areas. We aim to spread the coverage across the whole country, although we recognise that those in the larger urban areas might have more experience and knowledge of particular issues to share with us. We also recognise that staff in the larger urban areas can be more specialised and potentially handle a wider variety of issues, but we are always looking to the impacts on smaller areas, too.
We consider written submissions and other pertinent information before we select witnesses, and we are always interested to hear from those who provide an opinion that may differ from the status quo. If we receive submissions that provide similar opinions, we will try to avoid duplication on our panels, and we will strive to have contrary views available to test what we are told.
When we issue an invitation, we expect witnesses to attend. We will cancel an invitation only in exceptional circumstances. These invitations are not like invites to attend Government or other working groups, and we do not consider acceptance to be discretionary. We have powers to compel, but we do not want to use them, as we appreciate that it is far better all round that people attend willingly.
If witnesses feel that they are not the appropriate person to attend, they should contact the clerk immediately. That will allow an opportunity to discuss whether there might be a better alternative. If witnesses leave it to the last minute to contact the clerks, they will not be allowed to withdraw, and we will expect them to attend.
I welcome the witnesses on today’s panel, who have accepted our invitation to appear in front of the committee. John Lee is public affairs manager of the Scottish Grocers Federation; Stephen McGowan is head of licensing at the Institute of Licensing; and Paul Waterson is chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.
Welcome, gentlemen, and good morning. Would you like to make any opening remarks?