By Dave Hunter
The government’s most recent licensing statistics, published last week, revealed there were 11,363 on-trade premises licences in Scotland on March 31, 2013, down from 11,512 the previous year.
Glasgow accounted for the most on-trade licences, at 1230, having overtaken Edinburgh, which had 1207. This compares to the exact same number in Glasgow in 2012, and a drop from 1359 in Edinburgh.
While the majority of boards – 16 – recorded a drop in the number of on-trade premises between 2012 and 2013, 12 boards, including Aberdeenshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Highland and South Lanarkshire, recorded an increase in the number of premises in their area. West Dunbartonshire, known for its tough stance on overprovision, had two more on-trade premises in March 2013 than in March 2012.
Only four areas – Glasgow, Inverclyde, Moray and Scottish Borders – retained the same number of on-trade premises between March 2012 and March 2013.
Across Scotland, only 12 applications for premises licences were refused between 2012 and 2013, with Glasgow accounting for half of those refusals.
Patrick Browne, former chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said the figures showed the number of pub closures in Scotland had “plateaued”.
“We’ve seen operators coming into the market to replace the ones that are leaving, and I think the quality of pubs, bars and restaurants is going up because there’s a lot of money being spent in terms of capital expenditure,” he said.
“It’s encouraging that boards across Scotland are being quite circumspect in terms of not refusing applications. I think they realise there are economic benefits.
“And I think the premises that are succeeding are doing something different, which is for the betterment of the whole trade.”
Despite having fewer on-trade premises than Glasgow, Edinburgh continued to have the highest number of personal licence holders, at 6287 (up from 5881), with Glasgow just behind at 6234 (up from 5510 the previous year).
Across Scotland as a whole, the number of personal licence holders rose from 47,681 in March 2012 to 52,794 in March 2013.
There were 4874 off-sales premises licences in Scotland in the most recent figures, compared to 4867 in 2012. However, this figure only accounts for premises licensed for off-sales only.