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Sex Shop Licence

West Lothian Council operates a Sex Shop licensing scheme which is administered by the Council's Licensing Team.

The Team are able to provide general guidance on the scheme but cannot assist you to complete your application form or provide legal advice on whether a licence is required. You should seek legal advice from a solicitor or advice centre if you are unsure as to whether you require a licence. A sex shop licence is needed for any premises or other venue that sell a significant degree of sex articles such as sex toys, books or videos. 

Do I need a Licence?

Yes, if you wish to use a premises, vehicle, stall or vessel in West Lothian for a business which consists to a significant degree of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating "sex articles". R18 rated video recordings can only be sold at licensed Sex Shops.

A Sex Shop licence is not required merely for the exhibition of moving images, such as film or video. A Cinema licence may be required.

A "sex articles" means anything intended for use in connection with, or for the purpose of stimulating or encouraging:

  • sexual activity
  • acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity
  • any reading/visual or audio material which is concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deals with or relates to, or is intended to stimulate or encourage, sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity
  • is concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deals with or relates to, genital organs, or urinary or excretory functions

The definition does not include any articles which are manufactured for use primarily for the purposes of birth control or which primarily relate to birth control.

Can anyone apply for a licence?

Anyone can apply for a sex shop licence. However, by statute the Council is not allowed to grant a licence to a person:

  • Under the age of 18
  • Who is for the time being disqualified due to revocation of a sex shop licence by the Council or by order of a court
  • Other than a natural person if any director of it or partner in it or any other person responsible for its management is disqualified
  • Who has been convicted of certain criminal offence or offences detailed in Paragraphs 19 to 21 of Schedule 2 of the Civic Government ( Scotland ) Act 1982
  • Who is not resident in the United Kingdom or was not so resident throughout the period of six months immediately preceding the date when the application was made
  • A body corporate which is not incorporated in the United Kingdom
  • Who has, within the period of 12 months immediately preceding the date when the application was made, been refused by the same  council the grant or renewal of a sex shop licence  for the premises, vehicle, vessel or stall in respect of which the application is made, unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal
  • Other than a natural person if any director of it or partner in it or any other person responsible for its management has, within that period, been refused by the same Council the grant or renewal of such a licence, unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal.
How do you apply for a licence?

If you want to apply for a sex shop licence you must submit an application form along with the required documents and the appropriate fee, details of these can be found in the guidance notes attached to the application.

All applications are copied to the Council's advisors who can recommend that conditions in addition to the standard conditions detailed on this page are attached to the licence when granted. If you do not want to accept any recommended conditions then the application would be referred to the Licensing Committee for a decision to be made regarding which conditions will apply to your licence. Mandatory background checks will be carried out on all applicants by Police Scotland and applicants' details will be retained on computer.  You will be contacted once vetting is complete.

How will my application be decided?

Applications which do not attract any adverse comments/objections are granted by the Chief Solicitor under delegated powers. All other applications require to be referred to the Licensing Committee for determination. You will be advised if your application is being referred to the Licensing Committee. The Committee meets on a monthly basis.

We have nine months in which to determine your application however the majority of applications are determined within 60 days. 

How do you complain about Sex Shops?

Complaints regarding licence holders may be made to the Licensing Team.  These should be made in writing by email or letter providing full details of the nature of the complaint and sent to the Licensing Team using the contact details box.

Complaints regarding unlicensed Sex Shop should be made to Police Scotland by calling 101.

How much are the application and renewal fees?

More information regarding  pdf icon current application fees [23kb]​ 

Where can I get an application form?

Application forms which have guidance notes attached to them are available to download from the Related Documents section on this page.