Scotland

New alcohol-limiting proposals branded "one step away from prohibition"

By Oli Gross contact

- Last updated on GMT

New alcohol-limiting proposals branded "one step away from prohibition"

Related tags: Licensing boards, License, Kate nicholls, Scottish government, Uk

A proposal to limit the sale of alcohol at Scottish pubs has been labelled “one step away from prohibition”, amid renewed fears that licensees will become increasingly responsible for the health of customers.

The Scottish Government is considering a scheme for a collective national annual limit for alcohol consumption, which would force all outlets to declare their sales.

Licensing boards would have sales limits in each area, which could influence decisions on the granting of new licences, licensing conditions and opening hours.

'Unfair'

Currently licensing boards are making decisions based on the number of premises and their capacity, not volume of alcohol sold. 

Alcohol Focus Scotland claim having this information would enable licensing boards to optimise their polices in order to prevent alcohol-related harm.

But Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls argued the proposal would be 'unfair' on pubs.

“There is a danger here that common sense and otherwise responsible retailing will be abandoned in favour of arbitrary targets,” she said. 

“This would be a clumsy tool providing meaningless data and giving absolutely no indication as to the manner of consumption and giving no indication of harm.”

Nicholls argued the scheme would force even greater legislative and administrative burdens on pubs, and urged Scottish and wider UK governments to focus attention on tackling consumption of cheap off-licence and supermarket alcohol. 

Support

Scotland’s health minister has said the scheme could prove useful to reduce drinking levels, while it also has the backing of medical experts who argue more data is needed for licensing boards to meaningfully protect the public from harm.

But Paul Chase, director at CPL Training, and a leading commentator on alcohol policy, criticised the proposal.

“It is government rationing the supply of alcohol to the public — one step away from prohibition. If an alcohol-licensed premises of any kind reaches its annual alcohol sales limit, as defined in their premises licence, before the end of the year, they would presumably have to stop selling it until the following year,” he said.

While there are no plans for such measures in the rest of the UK, Camden Council last month began consultation on an unprecedented licensing policy​ which included a section on promoting public health. 

licensing boards are making decisions based on the number of premises and their capacity, not volume of alcohol sold. Having this information would enable licensing boards to optimise their polices in order to prevent alcohol-related harm.

Related topics: Legislation

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