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The Scottish Adventure Activities Forum will be hosting three National forums supported by Scottish Government. We would welcome anyone to attend. Please note, with reference to the new proposals from the HSE review, one of the options may impact on activities and activity providers who previously were not required to obtain a licence.   We would urge […] read more...

Scottish Adventure Activities Forum (SAAF) consultation briefing paper

November 2014


The Scottish Government has tasked the Scottish Adventure Activities Forum to undertake a review to further inform their decision-making relating to Adventure Activity Licensing in Scotland.

 This follows the consultation exercise in 2012 when Scottish Ministers concluded that:

  1.  A statutory scheme should be in place in Scotland underpinned by an inspection regime.
  2. There should be exemption of the voluntary sector and sports clubs to ensure there is no adverse impact on participation levels.
  3. There should be an ‘opt in’ for organisations who wish to be part of a Scottish Adventure Activity Licensing scheme but would otherwise be out of scope.
  4. The scheme should be revised and made more “fit-for-purpose”.


The Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) was established by the Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995, and accompanying Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 1996. The Act was passed following the Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy in March 1993, in which four young people lost their lives.  The aim of AALA was to licence providers of adventure activities in the fields of caving, climbing, trekking and water sports, to provide assurance to users that providers are compliant with relevant health and safety legislation. AALA also ensured providers were following good safety management practices so that young people could experience exciting and stimulating activities outdoors, while not being exposed to the avoidable risk of death or disabling injury.

The 1995 Act and the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004, require providers of adventure activities for young people under the age of 18 to hold a license.

 Some important exemptions & inclusions

Schools & Colleges – A license is not required by schools or colleges if they only provide to their own pupils or students. However a license is required by a school or college if it provides activities to pupils or students of another educational establishment or to other members of the public, in return for payment. 

Activity Centres, Field Study Centres etc. – These Centres if operated by education authorities or departments are also required to hold a license.

Voluntary Associations that provide activities only for their members or to members of other voluntary associations do not require a license.

Where activities are provided to young people while they are being accompanied by a parent or legally appointed guardian they are out of the scope of licensing.

Licensing requirements generally only apply to those organisations that provide activities in return for payment. 

The position since 2011

Lord Young, in his report Common Sense, Common Safety published in 2011, recommended that AALA be abolished and the licensing regime be replaced with a voluntary Code of Practice (COP). The UK Government accepted the recommendations and committed to remove AALA and replace it with a Code of Practice that HSE would oversee and monitor. A consultation led by HSE was undertaken to ascertain how best to deliver the COP.

 Following this announcement the Scottish Government responded in two ways:

  1.  It reached the conclusion that adventure activities licensing was a devolved matter, and following discussions with UK Ministers it was agreed that the Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995 was devolved. However the transfer of these powers to the Scottish Government has not yet taken place.
  2. Scottish Ministers were of the view that Scottish stakeholders should guide them. A full consultation exercise was undertaken in 2012. The conclusions are listed at the start of this paper. The primary aim of the consultation was to identify the most suitable approach for Scotland.

The 2014 consultation

This will invite all stakeholders operating in Scotland to give their views about a range of matters, including:

  1. Reviewing the definition of adventure activities
  2. Identifying any activities which should also be included in the regulations
  3. What could be added to or taken out of the 2004 Regulations
  4. Identifying any textual or factual changes required to simplify or clarify the wording of the current Regulations
  5. How can the scheme be “future-proofed” as the adventure activity sector evolves
  6. How can those who want to “opt in” be accommodated
  7. How “cross-border” arrangements can work effectively across the UK

There are some matters not within scope of this review:

  1. Persons who are required to hold a license
  2. Payment of a fee
  3. The offences and sanctions for breaching the 1995 Act

The consultation exercise

There will be four regional consultation meetings in December 2014, followed by an online survey that begins on Wednesday 10 December 2014, and finishes on Friday 9 January 2015. A follow up conference will be arranged early in 2015.

The survey can be accessed at SAAF Adventure Activities Licensing survey 2014 .

Notes to the survey:
A document containing the questions is attached here – survey (Word)  survey (pdf),  this will allow you to consider the questions prior to filling in the online survey.
If you would prefer to give a written response to the consultation you may do so but please keep your responses in line with the questions contained within the survey.  This should be sent by email to or no later than Friday 9th January 2015.

The consultation meetings will take place in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Dumfries over the period  8 – 10 December 2014.  Anyone wishing to attend any of these events should reserve a place using the Doodle Poll links below:

Monday 8th December                   Glasgow
Tuesday 9th December                  Edinburgh
Wednesday 10th December           Dumfries
Wednesday 10th December           Inverness

Results, conclusions and next steps

The responses will be analysed. A report on the findings will be submitted by SAAF to the Scottish Government by the end of March 2015 to help inform their decision making.

SAAF would encourage all stakeholders to make their views known during the consultation process as these views will ultimately shape the outcome of licensing in Scotland.

Jane Campbell Morrison (Chair SAAF)

SAAF may be contacted through the Secretary