Successive governments, encouraged by their army of bureaucrats, have always rushed to solve problems within society by legislating. This is not surprising when public opinion whipped up by media frenzy requires clear action by politicians. It is easy to say we have banned something or made an activity illegal. It is more difficult to solve the root cause of a problem, that takes time and money. So the politician will always opt for the eye-catching immediacy of a new law.

Too often this knee-jerk legislating does little to solve the problem and instead leads to unintended consequences further exacerbated by over-zealous officials relishing their additional powers. In addition, you have extra costs to police the laws that have been created. Think of the small army of council inspectors that visited business premises following the ban on smoking in public places. Their sole aim to check business owners were displaying the correct number of “No Smoking” signs for the size of their premises. If you were not displaying these signs or they were considered not be in a suitable location (as in my case) you risked a fine.

I have written before about the effect new licensing laws in Scotland are having on small rural communities. Now it seems the network of country shows and Highland games, a feature of the summer season in Scotland are also under threat. The volunteer organisers of the New Deer Show, probably considered one of the best in the North-East of Scotland, face spiraling costs as they attempt to comply with the new law.

The list of new requirements include:-

  • Hiring additional security, bar and stewarding staff. Roles which in the past would have been undertaken by volunteers.
  • Erection of compulsory safety fences around marquees if used for evening events serving alcohol.
  • The cost of closing roads if required on health and safety grounds.
  • The prior selling of evening event tickets. No one can purchase tickets on the door.
  • And the list goes on.

These events are often the most important date in the social calendar for rural communities when everyone is able to come together and celebrate.  They do not tend to be a hotbed of anti-social behaviour, as by their very nature they are self-regulating. Yet they have fallen foul of new legislation being enforced by civil servants. It is difficult enough encouraging people to volunteer when faced with a mountain of paperwork, forms, disclosure checks, risk assessments, health and safety briefings and funding applications. New burdens will only result in many of these quiet heroes saying, “Enough is enough, why bother?”