A leading anti-alcohol abuse campaign group has issued a “toolkit” to help local communities in Scotland raise objections at licensing boards.
Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) says complicated bureaucracy means residents can find it difficult to make their views heard.
The group says the boards have a duty to listen to those they represent and who will be affected by decisions such as increased pub hours and supermarkets getting permission to sell alcohol.
They say local residents’ concerns need to be considered as much as submissions from frontline workers such as police, paramedics and doctors dealing with the aftermath of the effects of alcohol on a daily basis.
The vast majority (91 per cent) of Scots think there are already enough or too many licensed premises in Scotland, according to a survey by Bluegrass Research in 2014.
However, only three per cent of licence applications were refused last year.
AFS say this suggests more needs to be done to give people the knowledge, skills and confidence to voice concerns.
The toolkit explains the licensing process, how to raise objections and includes a number of “top tips” such as keeping hold of police incident numbers if police have been called out to deal with anti-social behaviour, taking photos to illustrate points, and keeping track of deadlines.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of AFS, said licensing board decisions affected everyone.
“They decide whether a new supermarket or pub should get a licence, whether opening hours should be extended or whether an occasional licence should be granted for an event.
“We know that the more easily available alcohol is, the more health and social problems occur. In fact, neighbourhoods with the most licensed premises have alcohol-related death rates twice those of neighbourhoods with the fewest.”
Michael Matheson, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, said: “The damaging impact of alcohol misuse is clear. That is why there is legislation in place to control where and when it is sold.
“I believe that our local communities have the most insight on these issues, however they can struggle to get their views heard. This invaluable resource will help them to have their say and I congratulate Alcohol Focus Scotland for making this happen.”
Roger Colkett, of Tollcross Community Council in Edinburgh, said: “When I took on the responsibility for licensing issues, I had very little knowledge of the Licensing Act, little understanding of the wider impact of alcohol and no experience of the procedures of Edinburgh Licensing Board.
“Had this toolkit been available then, it would have saved me a great deal of time, trouble and anxiety, particularly when attending board meetings.”