Opinion: Why Edinburgh City Council's live music policy needs to change and how you can help
Music Is Audible are seeking a common sense change to current legislation
At the moment City of Edinburgh Council has one of the most restrictive live music policies in the UK. It currently contains a clause that states: 'all amplified music and vocals shall be so controlled as to be inaudible in neighbouring residential premises.' If a venue doesn't comply they are in danger of losing their liquor license. Realistically most live music venues can't survive if they can't sell drink.
'What doesn't work is the line that music must be "inaudible to residential premises",' explains Nick Stewart from Music is Audible and live / club venue Sneaky Pete's. 'In a heavily tenemented city like Edinburgh it's simply not possible to have full inaudibility. So what happens is places that would put on gigs don't, because the fear that they could lose their license mean it's not worth the risk.'
Music is Audible are a working group currently consulting with the council, seeking a small but crucial change to the wording of the current legislation. They propose a more flexible: ‘Amplified music shall not be an audible nuisance in neighbouring residential premises.’
At the moment a venue can be get in trouble simply for hosting live acts. 'The real difference is that the current clause presupposes that being able to hear music is a nuisance and actually environmental health law doesn't say that at all,' adds Stewart. MIA is looking for a common sense approach where each case is judged by eight criteria as laid out by the Consultation on Guidance to accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008: Impact, Locality, Time, Frequency, Duration, Convention, Importance and Avoidability.
It might seem like a minor difference but it could have a big impact. If we want a thriving cultural scene in Edinburgh music needs a platform. 'There could be a lot more music but everyone plays it safe,' says Stewart. 'I personally feel that young people growing up in Edinburgh if they are real music fans want to move to Glasgow because they feel like there's a stronger scene. If there was more of a sense of a scene in Edinburgh more people would stay and that would promote the scene continually.'
What Music is Audible are seeking is a realistic workable alternative. 'This is a reasonable request for a change in legislation. It's quite the opposite of a noise-makers charter. Any venue that was chancing their arm and trying to make too much noise would find themselves labelled as being a "nuisance." This clause will only benefit venue operators who operate their venues well and work with their neighbours.'
If you think this matters and want to show your support you need to send your views in writing to The Edinburgh Licensing Board via LiquorLicensing@edinburgh.gov.uk or post (marked 'Licensing Board Consultation'), to Licensing, City of Edinburgh Council, 249 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ, before 22 July.
'If you disagree with us that's also the address to write to,' adds Stewart, 'but I'd request that anyone who does please have a good read through the literature we've set up so they can see just how reasonable our proposal is.'