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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 21:14 GMT 22:14 UK
Sabbath ban decision delayed
Uig, Lewis
A firm on Lewis has said it is losing valuable weekend trade
Western Isles Council has delayed a decision on whether to scrap a ban on Sunday public entertainments licences.

Seven day licences are only issued to businesses in the southern islands at present.

The local authority has been warned that the policy could be in breach of European human rights legislation.

However, councillors agreed on Thursday evening to seek the advice of senior legal counsel on the issue.

A decision is expected next month.

Earlier in the day members of the authority's policy and resources committee had voted by six to two in favour of changing the policy.

Trading on Sundays has long been frowned upon by traditionalists in parts of the Western Isles.

Paintball business

This has been reflected by the local council, which had refused to grant seven day licences to businesses on the mainly Protestant islands of Lewis, Harris and North Uist.

However, since 1999 the restriction has not applied to Benbecula, South Uist and Barra, which have mainly Catholic populations.

The rethink on that policy was prompted by an application to run a paintball business near Stornoway seven days a week.

It was lodged by Jason King and Joe Engebretson, who started Viking Paintball in March.

If we have a blanket policy the legal tide will wash over us like King Canute
Councillor Norman Macdonald

The report to councillors said it was not for the council to deny a licence on moral or political grounds.

It warned that a failure to change the current policy could leave the council open to a legal challenge under European human rights legislation.

Councillor Iain Murdo Macleod told the policy and resources committee on Thursday afternoon that communities in Lewis, Harris and North Uist should be consulted before a decision was made.

A similar plea was made by the Lords Day Observance Society, which said its members were angry they had not been involved in discussions.

However, Councillor Norman Macdonald said he had received representations from both sides of the argument.

On its merits

"If we have a blanket policy the legal tide will wash over us like King Canute," he warned.

He said there was nothing the council could do but repeal the policy and deal with each application on its merits.

His motion was backed by the committee.

That decision had been expected to be ratified by the full council at its meeting on Thursday evening.

However, councillors instead backed a motion to delay the decision while seeking further legal advice.


SEE ALSO:
Sunday working bill passed
16 May 03  |  Scotland
Second airline makes Sabbath plans
13 Sep 02  |  Scotland


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