A SCOTTISH council has not handed out a single fine over the smoking ban since it came into force almost seven years ago, MSPs have heard.
Highland Council has not issued such a penalty since the ban on lighting up in enclosed public spaces was introduced in 2006, it was claimed.
The figure was revealed by SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell as he voiced concerns about apparent discrepancies in the way fines are issued across the country.
Raising the issue with justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, Mr Maxwell asked: “Is the Cabinet secretary aware that since 2006, Highland Council has never issued a fine in connection with the smoking ban?
“But Dundee Council has issued 718 fines in the six years since the legislation was introduced.
“Can I therefore ask the Cabinet secretary if he can explain the large variation in fines issued for breaching the ban on smoking in enclosed premises?”
Mr MacAskill did not dispute the statistics but said it was important to see them in context.
“The ban on smoking in public places has been a success and the evidence indicates a high level of compliance with the legislation,” he told MSPs.
“Enforcement, though, is a matter for local authorities. We do expect all local authorities to ensure that people comply with the legislation and to have suitable enforcement protocols in place to ensure the effectiveness of the smoking ban is maintained. So it is fundamentally a matter for the local authority.
“Why there is that discrepancy I am unable to advise, but it’s a matter I’m happy to discuss directly with the member, as indeed would the Lord Advocate.”
Legislation outlawing smoking in enclosed public places, such as pubs and restaurants, came into force in Scotland in March 2006.
Mr MacAskill yesterday said 32 charges of smoking in non-smoking premises were reported to prosecutors last year.