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Licensing shake-up could breathe new life into adventure trips

A complex licensing system that denies pupils across Scotland the chance to take part in adventure activities could be simplified, following a UK-wide consultation.

The current system was introduced after teenagers died in 1993 in a kayaking accident at Lyme Bay, on the southwest coast of England.

But many feel it is too complex and costs too much for small providers of adventure activities.

The Westminster Government is scrapping the licensing system in favour of a code of practice, and has been asking providers around the country for their views on how it should work; consultation closed on Wednesday. But Scotland could come up with another solution altogether, as the matter is devolved.

Iain Peter, chairman of the Scottish Adventure Activities Forum, said providers did not want a laissez-faire system but the current licensing system was unsatisfactory.

Some providers decide not to offer activities to children, he said, because of the cost - annual charges of several hundred pounds are applied even to small operations - and complexity of licensing.

Certain activities, such as rock-climbing and water sports, require a licence for under-18s to take part, while others, including skiing, do not. This created unease among schools, said Mr Peter, who struggled to understand why some activities were unlicensed, although the licensing regime does not apply to activities provided by schools for their own pupils.

After consultation responses to the code of practice are released, the Scottish Government will respond.

Drew Michie, of the Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education, said that providers in Scotland would like an inspection regime, which would be tougher than the code of practice and cover a wider range of activities than the existing licensing system.

The Health and Safety Executive's Peter Brown said the code should "reduce bureaucracy whilst still ensuring that outdoor activities providers meet their health and safety responsibilities".

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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