Scotland politics

Theatre nudity 'exempt' from new licensing law

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Image caption MSPs have been told the bill could have an inadvertent impact on risque shows

Theatre productions containing nudity will be exempt from new licensing laws covering sexual entertainment, the justice secretary has said.

Michael Matheson was giving evidence to Holyrood's Local Government Committee on the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill.

The proposals would allow local authorities to limit the number of sexual entertainment venues in an area.

But MSPs have been told it could have an inadvertent effect on risque shows.

Jon Morgan, director of the Federation of Scottish Theatre, told the committee last month the bill could affect performances at the Edinburgh Festival which contained nudity or explored issues such as pornography.

His concerns were raised by independent MSP John Wilson, who asked the justice secretary for assurance they would be exempt from the legislation.

'Rational approach'

Mr Matheson said: "I think it's a fair point to be raised and a reasonable concern for some establishments to actually have.

"That is why we're going to take forward some guidance in order to give some specific direction around this area about the types of premises and circumstances that would be exempt in these circumstances. So that could be, for example, a theatre production that does involve some nudity in it for a particular performance or series of performances that they are operating."

He told MSPs that local authorities would not have "unfettered power" to stop performances and would have to demonstrate they had taken a "rational approach" to decisions.

Labour MSP Cara Hilton questioned why the Scottish government was not moving for a total ban on strip clubs.

Mr Matheson said: "If a local authority believes that the desirable number is zero, then there's a process for them to go through in order to achieve that.

"Rather than government determining these matters. we're allowing local authorities to determine these matters and I think that is the most appropriate way for something of this nature to be taken forward."

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