Still fighting for businesses in Fife two centuries on

Billy McLean, Tom Kinnison, Tom Johnston and Gaving Grant - regalia handover at Dean Park Hotel
Billy McLean, Tom Kinnison, Tom Johnston and Gaving Grant - regalia handover at Dean Park Hotel

Once upon a time, there were licensed trade associations across Scotland.

Created in the 19th century, they were loose associations of publicans and hoteliers in and around the main towns in a county.

In Fife, there were associations in Cupar, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy.

Now, two centuries later, there is thought to be just one active organisation in Scotland – Fife Licensed Trade Association.

The association still sticks to its roots, providing advice and assistance to its members of which there are just under 100.

It also brings these members together, acting as a social group as much as a business one.

But the group has had a far from smooth history.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) was founded in 1880, with all the local associations as members, each giving half of its membership fees to the SLTA.

This changed in the mid-1990s, when it was agreed that all licensee members would become members of SLTA, which would instead give 50 per cent of the fees from each area back to local associations.

The Fife Region Licensed Trade Association (FRLTA) came into being in the mid-1990s.

Tom Johnston, secretary of the FLTA, said: “It had a considerable role in trying to influence licensing board policy, particularly on overprovision. A significant number of objections were lodged to new licence applications, mostly without success.

“Two of the local associations, Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, continued, purely for social purposes.

“And after local government reform, the FRLTA was renamed FLTA.

“It continued to have an active membership secretary, who went around members on a regular basis, discussing issues and answering members’ questions about licensing and other practical issues.

“Payment was made in the form of travelling expenses. By the first decade of the 21st century, many local associations had ceased operation or were in terminal decline.

“The reason? Very few maintained a regular presence on the ground.”

With no reserves, following meetings with the SLTA and fearing the group would go the way of other associations, the decision was taken to constitute a new association, also called Fife Licensed Trade Association.

This came into existence in 2015 and in its first year all Fife members of the SLTA split with the organisation and joined the new FLTA.

Now the group has just under 100 members, four sponsors and one corporate sponsor.

Marking the history of licensed trade associations in the town, the organisation recently presented chains of office from the three former licensed trade associations in Cupar, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy.

Billy McLean, current FLTA president, made the formal handover to Gavin Grant, service development team leader for ONFife Museums, at the Dean Park Hotel recently.

Tom Kinnison, the first secretary of the association in its former guise as FRLTA, was invited along as a special guest at the event.

Gavin said: “We are delighted to accept these beautiful chains of office from the FLTA.

“They are gold plated chains with the coats of arms of the areas of Fife held inside a central medallion.

“These are amongst the first new donations we are now storing at our new collections centre at Bankhead in Glenrothes.

“They are now available for researchers and the public to view and will also be incorporated into our museum displays, as and when appropriate.”

Billy McLean added: “We are pleased to be able to give these chains a new home and now have assurance that they will be well kept for many years to come.

“After the local government changes in the 1970s, one single association, Fife Region Licensed Trade Association (FRLTA) was formed. Until recent years, this was part of a national association.

“Since 2015, FLTA has been completely independent. We are committed to providing benefits for our members and raising the trade’s profile.

“On July 12 this year we are running our first ProAm Golf Tournament at Balwearie and also have other events in the pipeline.”