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Chris Mitchener

04 August, 2008
The Licensing Solutions' partner advises on what the Scottish changes will mean for you
Page 22 

== Will the changes in the law in Scotland affect my store in England or Wales? ==

 

The short answer is no. The legal systems in Scotland versus England and Wales are entirely separate. However the political debate about alcohol-related harm is watched closely in all three countries and so there is the possibility that something that is happening in one place today may be taken up elsewhere tomorrow.

 

== When are the changes coming in in Scotland? ==

 

In Scotland the 'big bang' changeover day when all the new regulations for the Scottish Licensing Act 2005 take effect is 05.00 hours on September 1, 2009 - but applications for conversion to the new licences should already be in for March and June renewals and only October and January renewals can still be applied for.

 

== What are the main differences between the Scottish Licensing law and the English and Welsh? ==

 

? The Act in Scotland sets out to address a number of different social issues that are not so evident or problematical in England and Wales - yet.

? Forecourts are specifically disqualified from having a licence in Scotland, although there are exceptions.

? Trading hours are restricted to 10am to 10pm for all off licences.

? Alcohol can only be sold from specified places on the shop plan.

? Alcohol promotions are heavily restricted.

? The law requires mandatory retraining for all Personal Licence Holders every five years.

? There is a legislative requirement that all staff selling alcohol are trained.

? There is no guarantee of the grant of the new licence during the conversion process.

? There is no automatic grant if there are no representations during new application process.

? Designated Premises Supervisors will be known as the Premises Manager although they will still have to hold a Scottish personal licence.

? A new role of Licensing Standards Officer is created, who will have greater powers than any council employee in England and Wales.

 

== Are all Scottish forecourt retailers disqualified from getting a licence? ==

 

A site is disqualified from selling alcohol from September 1, 2009 under the new Act if it is used for selling cars, servicing cars and or selling petroleum spirit and Derv. Primary use, ie that the shop is a bigger part of the business than the car-orientated business has no influence on the disqualification. Any existing licensed site must stop selling from September 1, 2009 if they fall within this disqualification.

 

== Are there any exceptions for forecourt convenience store operators? ==

 

Yes, if a site can show that '...the local community is, or is likely to become, reliant on the premises as a principal source of either fuel or groceries.' although it is not prescribed how this would be shown. This would in theory allow for new applications in the future as well.

 

== Realistically does this mean any site will continue to sell alcohol? ==

 

Absolutely yes, they will. But the site will have to show its relevance to the community in order to continue to be able to sell, although the positive is that the guidelines indicate that this can be in 'urban villages' as well as in rural areas.

 

== Could licences be removed like this in England and Wales? ==

 

This is highly unlikely as the legal status of a licence in England and Wales is different to that of one in Scotland as they are deemed to be 'property' here and as such at the very least the compensation issue would raise its head if licences were to be removed at some time in the future. It did not happen in 1988 when the Justices Act was amended to include a forecourt consideration and there were only 186 across England and Wales then, whereas now there are well over 2,000 licensed forecourts. Also, and more importantly, there is no evidence of government plans to do so. As a point of interest, in December 2006 there were 190 licensed forecourts in Scotland.

 

== What about trading hours? ==

 

In Scotland they have set down in law that no off licence can sell alcohol before 10am and after 10pm. In England and Wales there are no set times and an applicant can, if they choose, apply for up to 24-hour-a-day licensing hours. However councils can impose restrictions on a particular site if it is causing difficulties. This is either done when an application is first made or subsequently through a formal licence review called when there are difficulties surrounding the hours traded.

 

== How are alcohol displays restricted? ==

 

In Scotland alcohol can only be sold from an area designated on the shop plan at the time of the application and this area is limited - in supermarkets it may only be one aisle for example.

 

== Will we have to reduce or move our displays? ==

 

It is possible as the new consultation initiative from the government - 'Changing our Drinking Culture' - has raised the very issue of the siting of alcohol in store. Current guidelines suggest the whole store should be licensed and while this will be up for debate it is difficult to see how existing stores could be made to change or reduce layouts retrospectively.

 

== What about alcohol promotions? ==

 

When the new law comes in there will be heavy restrictions on alcohol promotions, bogofs and linked sales in Scotland

 

== Can alcohol promotions and prices be restricted in England and Wales? ==

 

If there is sufficient will from government they will find a way and this will prove to be a major part of the debate during the 'Changing our Drinking Culture' consultation period.

 

== What about the training of Personal Licence Holders? ==

 

To hold a Personal Licence in Scotland you have to have passed the SNCPLH - the Scottish National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders - and every five years you will have to take and pass a refresher course. In England and Wales you have to pass the English National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders, although there is no requirement for formal refresher training and you can't use an English qualification in Scotland or vice versa.

 

== Will that happen in England and Wales? ==

 

Not easily but why not? The Scottish Licensing Act 2005 has some good things in it and why not require that a Personal Licence Holder is regularly refreshed in licensing regulations? In England and Wales we have licensees who have never ever been formally trained who are now required to control licensed premises under laws that have changed quite significantly in both 1988 and again in 2005. Yet when they entered the licensed trade in the '60s, '70s or '80s there was no recognised formal training and they gained their 'Personals' by grandfather rights so could quite conceivably never have received any formal or refresher training.

 

== What about staff training? ==

 

In Scotland it is required in the legislation that all staff are trained to sell alcohol and that this training should be by a Personal Licence Holder or training body.

 

== Will a legislative requirement for staff training come in for England and Wales? ==

 

It is another matter for debate under the 'Changing our Drinking Culture' consultation but recorded training and refresher training are already accepted as best practise by most operators (both independent and multiple) with a number of good training packages available.

 

== Why is their no presumption of grant in Scotland? ==

 

There is not in the sense that even if there are no representations to a new application, the Licensing Board can still hear the application and apply conditions thought appropriate of their own accord. In England and Wales if there are no representations the application is granted as applied for. Again, the social issues in Scotland have meant that the legislation has slightly different or additional goals to those of the England and Wales Act.

 

== Could our system of 'granted as applied for' be changed in this way? ==

 

It could not without changes to the Act itself, which would require to be placed before Parliament and this government has no appetite for such a debate in that venue at this time.

 

== What is a Standards Officer? ==

 

In principal this is a liaison role between the Board and the Premises Licence Holders and Premises Managers. The Standards Officer will have a lot of power, much more than any similar officer in England and Wales and can visit and inspect premises at any time, invoking review proceedings if thought necessary. It is hoped however that they will instigate negotiations between the Licensing Authority, any Responsible Authorities and the Premises Licence Holder or Manager thereby avoiding the necessity of a review. This is a role already assumed by some Local Authority officers to their credit in England and Wales which has proved to be very helpful to all concerned and there are many Licensing Officers throughout the country who also deserve credit for their hard work, dedication and even-handedness in dealing with applications & applicants.

 

== What of the future? ==

 

There is a lot going on at present in both Scotland and Ireland in licensing terms, both countries having their own slightly more extreme levels of social influences on licensing legislation. Our own government has been under intense pressure of late because of the perceived impact of the Licensing Act since its introduction in November 2005. It is fair to say that the aspirational goals have not been met - we do not have a 'café culture' on the streets now any more than we had before November 2005. But what we do have is a piece of current legislation that is open to influence and change in the future and which is now coming under scrutiny once again as part of the consultation process of the 'Changing our Drinking Culture' debate. We have to embrace the current legislation and make it work for us as retailers without impinging on the rights of others around us. We can achieve this by the improved training of, and better communication with, all stake holders at all levels from the till staff to the Licensing Committee chairpersons in order to achieve a consistent and fair application and operation of the legislation across the whole country, so that we make it work.