Highland row over glassware

Board under fire over ‘plastic’ glasses proposal

By Dave Hunter

HIGHLAND licensing board has drawn fire over proposals to make ‘plastic’ glasses compulsory for all licensed premises and introduce a blanket ban on extended hours for Scottish Premier League match days.

The board suggested both measures as part of the consultation on its new licensing policy statement.
In the ‘plastic glasses’ section of the consultation, respondents are asked to choose from several options relating to the use of plastic containers in premises – one of which is to compel all licensed premises, including pubs and restaurants, to serve drinks in plastic containers after 9pm. The policy currently only applies to late-opening premises.
Operators have reacted angrily to the plans, saying it could harm the image of the Highlands and damage tourism.
Ally Smith, owner of the Volunteer Arms in Fort William, said plastic containers are “totally unnecessary”.
“I think something across the board, where all premises have to use plastic containers after a certain time, is ludicrous,” he said. “You’re then looking at a situation where you go into a high-class restaurant, pay £200 for a bottle of wine and get a plastic glass.
“It would do the Highlands and Islands no good at all when it comes to welcoming tourists.”
Colleen Calderwood, assistant manager at The Torridon hotel in Wester Ross, agreed that a blanket policy of using plastic containers would be impractical.
“With whisky, the shape of the glass [funnels] the aromas,” she said. “So if you’re going to change to a plastic container you’re losing your flavours straight away.”
Don Lawson, who owns Inverness outlets The Den and Johnny Foxes and is a member of the Highland Licensing Forum, said he thinks the board will “see sense” and choose to implement a plastic container policy only to selected late-night premises.
“If you have a history of incidents you’re going to have plastic glasses,” he said. “But I have to say plastic glasses in all pubs in the Highlands – I just don’t see it happening.”
Lawson also defended the board’s proposal to ban 11am opening times on SPL match day Sundays.
He said he thought it was “fair enough” the board had refused previous hours extensions on the grounds of preventing public disorder.
“It’s not up to the licensing board to contribute to the financial end game – to pubs making more money,” he said.
Dr Elisabeth Smart, consultant in public health for NHS Highland, which is backing the ‘plastic glasses’ proposal, said: “Research has demonstrated that by not using glass there is potential to reduce the severity of alcohol related violence in night clubs and patrons have reported that they feel safer in areas where plastic glasses are in place.
“There are also less glass-related accidents for staff.”