Calls for alcohol licensing reform

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, pictured with Public Health Minister Michael Matheson. Picture: TSPL

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, pictured with Public Health Minister Michael Matheson. Picture: TSPL

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A non-political national alcohol licensing body is required to end “inept and inefficient” council decision-making over the provision of licensed premises, according to a trade body.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said the current system is “rife with inconsistencies, political pointscoring and confusion”, and should be reformed in the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill currently going through parliament.

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Chief executive Paul Waterson will outline his concerns to Holyrood’s Local Government Committee today.

In a submission to the committee, the SLTA said it “has never been supportive of a licensing system governed by local authority licensing boards”.

“In our opinion, such a system, solely administered by local councillors, continues to lead to rife inconsistencies, political pointscoring and confusion, not just for the trade but the customers it serves,” it said.

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“SLTA is of the opinion that this fundamental flaw does not make the current licensing system in a general context fit for purpose and reiterates the need to change this inept and inefficient system, and calls for a non-political national government licensing body to be set up.

“At local level/regional level there should be a group looking at local/regional issues.

“Such groups should consist of representatives from the trade, health organisation, community groups, the legal fraternity, police, in fact anyone deemed to be interested in the licensed trade.

“Perhaps these groups could be made up in a similar way to local licensing fora. Alternatively a national independent adjudicator or an independent conciliation/arbitration body should be formed.

“With the need for the Scottish Government to currently consider separate legislation in respect of tenant licensees and the relationship they have with their pubco/landlords, such an arbitrary system would be opportune to extend to cover all licensing matters.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is important that people have a say in the decisions that impact on the safety, health and amenity of their local communities.

“The Scottish Government believes the existing liquor licensing regime where local authority councillors are directly responsible for making key decisions in relation to licensing works well.”

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