SCOTTISH LICENSING REFORM

September 5th, 2009

Confusion still remains with only days to go before the biggest changes in decades to Scottish alcohol licensing

Reacting to the implementation of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, being introduced on Tuesday (1 September), the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said a common-sense approach must be applied to enforcement.

In some areas, shops and their staff have still not received their new licences from licensing boards despite applying on time. The Government and the licensing authorities must announce a clear enforcement moratorium for any retailers affected by such delays. They must also end major uncertainty about other aspects of the new rules – such as whether or not they restrict shop promotions.

The SRC also said the Government had not done enough to inform the public of the new regime, leaving it to retailers to shoulder the burden of explaining the changes to customers. People across Scotland who regularly shop first thing in the morning – shift-workers, parents after the school-run and early risers – will find they can no longer include alcohol in their shopping before 10am.

Other new legal requirements include every licensed store needing to have a personally licensed premises manager. Alcohol will also be restricted to one area in store and all staff dealing with alcohol need to be re-trained.

The SRC believes the Government should be taking time to assess the effects of these major changes instead of rushing into even more radical changes in the form of the Alcohol Bill – planned for later this year.

Ian Shearer, Scottish Retail Consortium Director, said: “With only days to go, these comprehensive changes could prove a recipe for confusion and inconsistency for licensed retailers. There needs to be stronger direction from Government and the enforcement agencies to provide the certainty businesses require.

“For retailers whose paperwork has been delayed in the system, there have to be clear assurances that enforcement bodies will take a sympathetic, common-sense approach.

“The Government and Scottish Parliament agreed to a full debate later this year on store promotions. Current guidance implies the 2005 Act was not intended to apply to promotions in shops. Retailers plan their stocks months in advance and cannot face the chaos of disparities and unpredictability in the way different local licensing authorities apply the Act. The expense and management time involved would be substantial – especially for smaller retailers.

“We recognise the huge and genuine efforts made by all involved to bring this new system in on schedule, but gaps remain. For retailers, especially those struggling in the recession, the compliance costs and burdens have been out of proportion. This is not better regulation and consumers will be surprised by some of the changes. It again calls into question the rush to yet more legislation later this year.”