We dealt with quite a number of the weaknesses, as we see them. I will go through them quickly. We believe that the definition of scrap metal is inadequate. Also, the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 defines a scrap metal dealer as “buying and selling” scrap metal; our strongly held view is that the definition of a scrap metal dealer should refer to their buying “or” selling scrap metal.
I know that the Scottish Government was keen to avoid getting into detail about payment methods, but that is an area in which there has to be detail and prescription, because it is complex. I give the example of cash cards that do not require the individual to hold any identification. In our view, that is the direct equivalent of cash. There might be an argument that the bill is non-prescriptive but, in essence, by not spelling things out, it lends itself to misinterpretation and poor enforcement.
I dealt with local authority licensing in relation to a register. On inconsistent licensing conditions, if mobile collectors are to be licensed only in one local authority, they will license themselves in the cheapest local authority, or the one that has the least stringent conditions. I have termed that “licence tourism”. It will be rampant. These are very bright people. That issue has to be dealt with. It is probably best dealt with through strong guidance and placing a strong duty of consistency on licensing authorities.
I have dealt with display of licences. We have not talked too much about establishing a seller’s identity. I know that the Scottish Government sought to avoid having too much detail on that in the bill, but it has to set out, either on the face of the bill or in definitive guidance, what forms of identity and what processes are required. In other words, do you need to verify the name and address by reference to a publicly available means of ID that contains a photograph and an address, for example? That would be our recommendation. The bill should also set out some alternatives.
We have referred to tag and hold. We believe that the lack of a suitable applicant test, or fit-and-proper-person test, is an omission. We also believe that there should be consultation with SEPA on applications for a new licence or for renewal of a licence. Joe McCann has highlighted the fact that, like it or not, the correlation between waste licensing and scrap metal dealer licensing is very close indeed. Frankly, if somebody is in breach of conditions on one side, that should be taken into account.
Some work needs to be done on who is being licensed. These are not all individuals; a large number of the licensees in Scotland are corporate entities of one sort or another. Some thought has to be given as to whether we should license the site manager—that goes back to the discussion that you had with the first panel—the owner or the controlling mind. The owner and the controlling mind might not be the same person, nor might either be the site manager.
Our assertion is that in a lot of these areas the bill needs more detail, I am afraid. I also comment—because I have been asked to—that trying to mesh this in with the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 adds a level of complexity and interweaving that makes the bill very difficult to read and understand, even for those of us whose job it is to read and understand these things.
We have been impertinent enough to produce a draft suggested rewording of some sections, which might bring it all together in one place, and which the Scottish Government and your clerks have received. We would be very happy, as the bill moves on, to work with the committee and with Scottish Government officials to try to make better legislation. We would like to see the best legislation in Scotland.