The sweeping reforms of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 included the introduction of five licensing objectives intended to give a guiding rationale to the new system. They are:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder
  • Securing public safety
  • The prevention of public nuisance
  • Protecting and improving public health and
  • The protection of children from harm

Public health was perhaps the most controversial of the objectives, and indeed attempts to include a similar objective in the analogous English Licensing Act failed. Once the 2005 Act was passed, it became clear that the Scottish Government felt that there was still more work to be done in protecting people from the perceived harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

As a result, the 2005 Act has been extensively amended through successive sets of regulations, and in two significant pieces of primary legislation this year: the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill (still to receive Royal Assent at the time of going to press).

The key elements of the 2010 legislation

The new legislation introduces some significant new arrangements to the alcohol licensing regime in Scotland, although one of the Government's flagship proposals, minimum pricing, did not attract enough support within the Scottish Parliament in the final stages of the Bill, and therefore is not included in the new legislation.

A social responsibility levy to be imposed on licence holders

The basic principle here is that those who make money from the sale of alcohol should contribute to the cost of alcohol-related behaviour and disturbances, such as additional policing and cleaning up. Licence holders who could be affected by the levy are holders of premises licences or occasional licences, holders of street trader's licences, holders of public entertainment licences and holders of late hours catering licences, unless the sale of alcohol is an insignificant part of their business. Details of the levy are still to be decided but it is expected that Local Authorities will be given flexibility in whether, how and on whom to impose the levy, and that a reduced levy may be imposed in cases where "good practice" can be demonstrated.

Restrictions on pricing of alcoholic drinks packages

A minimum price approach to packages that contain two or more alcoholic products is to be imposed. The price of any such package must not be less than the sum of the prices at which each individual product is for available for sale individually.

Variation of the 72 hour restriction provisions for off-sales pricing

The 2005 Act provides that the price for any alcohol cannot be varied until after the expiry of 72 hours from a previous alcohol price variation. This rule is to be amended in respect of off-sales of alcohol, so that the price of different alcoholic products may be varied at any time, and only the price of a particular alcoholic product must be maintained for at least 72 hours before the price of that same product may be varied. This will permit off-sales licence holders greater flexibility in their sales promotions.

Extension of irresponsible drinks promotion provisions to off-sales

So-called irresponsible promotions which are seen to encourage bulk-buying such as "buy one get one free" and "three for £10" offers will no longer be allowed. This brings the off-trade in line with the on-trade.

Restriction of off-sales drinks promotions to alcohol display areas

Drinks promotions will only be permitted in the alcohol display areas or in specially designated tasting rooms. Drinks promotions in the vicinity (within 200 metres) of the premises that are in connection with those premises are prohibited. This is designed to prevent impulse buying of alcohol.

Imposition of a mandatory age verification policy for premises and occasional licenses

All premises will now have to operate an age verification scheme along the lines of the Think 25 policy already operated by a number of premises. The policy must set the minimum age for verification purposes at 25 (although it can be older).

Power for Licensing Boards to make blanket variations of premises licence conditions

The powers of a Licensing Board to vary licensing conditions, which it currently is only able to do on a case by case basis, are to be extended so that it may vary conditions of premises licences in respect of multiple premises, be that all premises in its area, or in particular parts of the area for which it is responsible, or in respect of certain types of licensed premises in its area, but only where the board considers it expedient for the purposes of the licensing objectives. The types of variations that may be made will be governed by regulations.

Requirement for Licensing authorities to consult with Health Boards in relation to policy

Local Health Boards are to become an integral part of the licensing policy process by being consultees in the preparation of licensing policy statements, and also in relation to assessment of overprovision. Health Boards will also receive notification of every premises licence application, and major variations, and at least one member of each Local Licensing Forum must be a person nominated by the Health Board for the Forum's area.

Requirement for applicants for a Premises Licence to produce a disabled access and facilities statement

This will set out (a) provision made for access to the subject premises by disabled persons, (b) facilities provided on the subject premises for use by disabled persons, and (c) any other provision made on or in connection with the subject premises for disabled persons.

A variety of procedural changes relating to premises and occasional licences

These include limits on the number of occasional licences that can be applied for in any 12 month period and the duration of such licences.

None of the new provisions are yet in force. They will be brought into force on future dates to be appointed by Scottish Ministers.

Changes to other licences

The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 included a vast range of provisions on a wide range of topics, including Civic Government Licences. Some of the significant changes include:

  • Late Hours Catering Licences will be required for any sale of "food" between the hours of 11pm and 5am. Previously these Licences were only required for the sale of "meals or refreshments" so many premises that were not previously caught may require to get a licence.
  • All operators with venues to which the public are admitted for the purposes of recreation and entertainment will require a Public Entertainment Licence, regardless of whether people pay for entry or not. Previously, payment of "money or money's worth was required".

Watch this space?

It seems clear from recent Scottish Government statements that alcohol is going to remain very much on the legislative agenda, and those of us with an interest in licensing will be keeping a close eye on things as they develop.

To view the provisions of the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill as passed click here