SCOTLAND'S leading arts body, Creative Scotland, has warned councils not to allow new licensing legislation to "undermine" the development of new artistic talent.

The national funding body has issued a statement on the controversial Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act of 2010, which comes into force on April 1 and requires all exhibitions to pay for public entertainment licences.

The act, and its implications for the licensing of small scale, temporary, free artistic or musical events, have caused uproar in the artistic community and led to nearly 9000 people signing a petition to scrap the new fees.

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Although concern over the changes to the law first aroused the attention of artists, galleries and performers in Glasgow, artists across the country are concerned over how councils will interpret the changes, particularly in Edinburgh, where the council said the act's impact is "being assessed".

Creative Scotland's statement says it hopes all 32 local authorities in Scotland interpret the law in a way which does not damage creative endeavour.

It said: "Creative Scotland accepts that the motivation behind the legislation is to ensure that large-scale free events are well-run and that audiences and participants are safe; irresponsible organisers often try to avoid the costs of things like stewarding which can put audiences at risk.

"Our understanding of the legislation is that individual local authorities can choose which types of events need a licence and how those events are defined – naturally, we expect that councils will interpret the legislation to the benefit of their creative community."

As revealed in The Herald this week, Glasgow City Council, known for its DIY, artist-led spaces and small-scale creative events, is moving to "get around" the new law by redefining what is covered by the legislation.

Glasgow's Licensing and Regulatory Committee will consider a proposal at a meeting on February 23. At this stage, The Herald understands, the proposal is to clarify the meaning of "exhibitions" to exclude temporary, non-commercial exhibitions which are for "cultural purposes".

Artists in Edinburgh are also concerned about the changes but the city council has yet to make a definitive statement on how the act will affect small-scale or temporary events.

A spokeswoman for the City of Edinburgh Council said the effects of the legislation were still being assessed, and added: "We would advise anyone with concerns to contact our licensing service in the meantime."