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06 April 2017

Local regulation shouldn’t mean a postcode lottery for small firms

Agreeing rules which allow businesses to trade across national borders is undoubtedly a key part of the Brexit negotiations. But closer to home, you might be surprised to know that rules allowing trade across council boundaries – let alone trading further afield – still create problems for small businesses.

From ice cream to fish and chips, mobile traders have often been frustrated by the rule that requires inspection in each council area the van operates in, even when their home authority is satisfied. And these duplicate inspections sometimes resulted in different rules for the business – for example, one council was happy for utensils to be washed back at base, whilst the neighbouring council wasn’t and required a second sink be installed.

Susan Article - Food Truck at FringeAfter a decade of FSB campaigning on local government inconsistency, new rules governing food hygiene of mobile traders will soon come into force. They follow the introduction of the Regulatory Reform Act, in 2014 which accepted the FSB’s case that needless differences in council rules made it harder for small firms to grow.

With the new law the Scottish Government can introduce a ‘national standard’ for rules and regulations which were previously left to individual councils to decide. And, because of the cases raised by small businesses, mobile food hygiene rules are the first to get the national standard treatment, albeit it’s taken three years to finalise. But, with a queue of issues, from rules for window cleaners and businesses selling vintage goods, we hope that improvements come faster in future.

Regulations are a necessary part of doing business but all councils could be doing a lot more to make it easier for smaller businesses to operate. They could be working with neighbouring councils to streamline their rules and should be carrying out impact assessments before making rule changes that affect businesses in their area.

As the council elections approach, this is the kind of support for small businesses we will expect from those running our town halls. 


Susan Love is FSB Scotland's Policy Manager 

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