Two-tier fears emerge again after retail case

FEARS of a ‘two-tier’ licensing system have been raised again after Tesco was given the go-ahead to increase the hours and shelf space within which alcohol is sold at one of its stores.

The outlet in question – in Hardgate near Clydebank – falls under the jurisdiction of West Dunbartonshire licensing board.
The board adopted one of the toughest stances on overprovision in Scotland in the wake of the 2005 Act, effectively slapping a ban on any new licences in the area.
While this particular case didn’t involve a new licence, it did increase the time and space within which alcohol can be sold.
The changes were rubber-stamped after the retailer promised not to sell beers and ciders which are stronger than 5.5% ABV; cans or bottles of beer or cider of 440ml or less in packs of less than four; and caffeinated alcoholic drinks.
But the trade has hit out at the decision, saying it goes against the board’s own policy on overprovision, with one local operator suggesting it’s another example of a board being “too scared” to say no to large retailers for fear of costly appeals and decisions being overturned by the courts.
As boards across Scotland review their policies on overprovision as part of their new licensing policy statements, which must be in place by November, one can only hope they are all built on a level playing field.