A survey by Serve Legal, the UK’s leading retail age check company, also found that retailers sold knives to four in ten mystery shoppers unchallenged.
Tobacco and e-cigarettes were also served without age checks, despite Challenge 21/25 schemes and severe penalties for breaking the law on underage sales. Selling alcohol to people under the age of 18 years is illegal in Scotland, and young-looking people attempting to buy alcohol should be asked to for ID.
Serve Legal undertook 697 alcohol test purchases in Scottish hospitality venues in 2017, with 32 per cent of sales unchallenged.
The 2017 pass rate showed no improvement on the previous year, despite the risk of fines, prosecution and possible business closure if convicted.
Serve Legal, which used young-looking 18 and 19-year-olds in its visits, believes that that there is complacency amongst on-trade operators and wider retailers around compliance with the law on underage sales and calls for tougher penalties.
Ed Heaver, director of Serve Legal, said: “Despite the intentions of the well-established Challenge 21 and 25 schemes and stringent government policy on alcohol in Scotland, our latest data highlights complacency amongst hospitality operators around alcohol age checks.
“Those that believe that responsible retailing doesn’t matter to the bottom line are misinformed.
“Failure to invest in staff training and performance around age identification checks could result in a major fine for the business and for staff, temporary or even permanent closure and a custodial sentence if convicted.
“We urge every business that sells alcohol to take age-check testing seriously if they value their corporate social responsibility, the reputation of their brand and the longevity of their business.”
High street retailers including supermarkets, discounters and convenience stores were far more diligent, achieving an 86 per cent pass rate.
Scotland’s overall alcohol test pass rate was 84 per cent in 2017 compared to 87 per cent in 2016. Scotland has historically been the strongest-performing part of the UK for total alcohol tests, scoring the UK’s highest pass rates in eight of the last ten years.
Mr Heaver added: “In the current trading climate, what business can afford to take the risk of presuming that its staff are operating to the letter of the law?”