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Scotland learns from English law

After much discussion, the Scottish Government has published its timetable for implementation of the cash ban for scrap recyclers and licensing provisions set out in the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act (AWLA), which also covers metal recycling.

During the past year, the British Metals Recycling Association’s (BMRA) policy team has been working closely with the Scottish Government, the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators In Scotland, Police Scotland and British Transport Police (BTP) and the Scottish Business Resilience Centre to ensure the Act’s provisions and the implementation timetable are achievable.

This dialogue resulted in just over five months being added to the original intended implementation date of 1 April 2016. The commencement order will now come into force on 16 March and its provisions in terms of cash payments, licensing and record keeping will come into force on 1 September 2016.

By working closely with all the stakeholders, we were able to demonstrate that this delay was vital if metal recyclers, police services and councils were to have enough time to make the practical changes, updates and arrangements necessary to meet the conditions of the Act.

This extra time would also allow for wider conversations to be held about the budget for enforcement. Immediately following the implementation of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act in England, the police and local authorities had the funds to go out and enforce it. But now, with budgets being squeezed, we have seen a drop-off in enforcement resulting in an increased risk of a resurgence in illegal cash payments.

While we have been working closely with BTP and stakeholders in England to find ways to solve this, it could be advantageous to look at the options for longer-term enforcement budgets for Scotland now to ensure enforcement can be maintained.

It is particularly gratifying that we have been able to share what we have learned from the implementation of the Act in England. We have even been able to identify specific issues relating to the AWLA where we think further guidance is necessary to clarify the law.

We are keen to see the language used being more precise in order to close any potential loopholes that might disadvantage the metal recyclers who abide by the Act and benefit companies operating on the margins of the law. For example, we would like to see, as a minimum, skip hire services and demolition companies be subjected to similar licensing conditions set out in the Scrap Dealers Act.

We are also seeking clarification on verification of identity. As it stands, those bringing metal to a yard will have to show a passport or driver’s licence and a utility bill or bank statement. However, when it comes to second- or third-party hauliers, the identification requirements are less clear. Who has to provide the ID – the actual seller or the haulier?

In the coming months, the BMRA’s policy team will continue to work with all the stakeholders involved to ensure that the supporting guidance is as robust as possible and any loopholes that could be exploited are closed.

After all, ensuring there is a level playing field for metal recyclers who abide by the law must surely be the end goal for us all.

At a glance: Scotland’s New Act



  • The cash ban, record keeping and licensing provisions come into force on 1 September.
  • The window for dealers, including itinerant collectors, to make a licence application to their council’s licensing department opens on 16 March and closes on 1 June.
  • Metal recyclers must submit a licence application by 1 June in order to fall within the interim provisions.
  • These provisions allow metal recyclers to continue operating under an existing exemption or licence should their local authority fail to make a decision on their application by 1 September.
  • However, metal recyclers will still be subject to the cash ban and record keeping requirements regardless of the status of their licence application.
  • The documents currently acceptable to prove ID are a passport or driver’s licence and a utility bill or bank statement (with address).

Robert Fell is chief executive of the British Metals Recycling Association

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