RE-THINKING ALCOHOL LICENSING: New report from SHAAP and AFS calls for more effective controls on how, when and where alcohol is sold to reduce record levels of alcohol-related harm
A new report by SHAAP and Alcohol Focus Scotland launched today (Thursday) at Alcohol Focus Scotland’s National Licensing Conference, calls on licensing boards to make more effective use of licensing legislation to control the overall availability of alcohol and reduce record levels of alcohol harm.
The report also calls on the Scottish Government to take further action to regulate the sale of alcohol in off-sales and return licensing to its fundamental purpose of controlling the availability of alcohol to prevent harm. Recommendations include:-
• Licensing policy should consider the overall effect of licensed premises on drinking behaviour and levels of alcohol harm in communities, not just the operation of individual licensed premises.
• Off-sales hours should be reduced to 10am until 8pm.
• Licensing boards should publish detailed information about the number, type and capacity of licensed premises in their area.
• Separate alcohol-only checkouts should be introduced in supermarkets.
• Licensed premises should be required to provide annual information on the volume of alcohol sold by drink type as a condition of their licence.
• Licensing fees should be applied based on volume of alcohol sold.
Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said:
“Scotland is unique in having a licensing system which is based on protecting and improving public health. But we need to make sure that this principle is put into practice. The recommendations we are making today would shift the focus away from individual ‘problem’ licensed premises, to managing the overall availability of alcohol in the interests of society’s health and wellbeing. The licensing system exists because there is a consensus in society that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity. It is a substance with known toxic, intoxicating and addictive effects. As such, it needs to be carefully regulated.”
Dr Bruce Ritson, chair of SHAAP said:
“Licensing laws and practice have been steadily relaxed over the past 30 years with more licences issued to a wider range of premises and for longer opening hours. This greater availability has been associated with a substantial rise in alcohol consumption and harm. Over the past two decades, Scotland has had one of the fastest growing liver cirrhosis death rates in the world. Compared to other licensed or otherwise regulated products, alcohol stands out in being highly visible, accessible and aggressively promoted. If we want to reduce the record levels of alcohol harm we need to tackle the price and availability of alcohol.”
- The report was informed by an expert workshop convened in June 2011 to consider the operation of Scotland’s licensing system and in particular the licensing objective of promoting and protecting public health. Discussion was also informed by an Opinion from Sir Crispin Agnew QC.
- The report can be downloaded here