Volume of legislation is no joke

Comment By Gillian McKenzie

At first I assumed it was an ill-judged April Fool; surely yet more licensing legislation had not been tabled. But it had.

Gillian B&WLabour MSP Richard Simpson introduced the snappily-titled Alcohol (Licensing, Public Health and Criminal Justice) (Scotland) Bill on April 1.

The Bill proposes a number of measures, including introducing Drinking Banning Orders (the so-called ‘alcohol ASBOs’); and increasing the neighbour notification ‘zone’ for new licence and major variation applications from four metres to 50m as well as doubling the length of time a site notice must be displayed to 42 days.

It is not, however, the content of the Bill that has angered the trade most; rather proposals that do not feature, such as measures to address overprovision and redress the balance between the on and off-trades.

Proposals – included or omitted – aside, the Bill’s very existence surprised me most. I remember attending Alcohol Focus Scotland’s National Licensing Conference in Aviemore back in 2008 – during the transition to the 2005 licensing Act – and listening as then justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said the switch to the new regime was progressing smoothly but admitted “some parts need a good clout with a heavy hammer”.

Looking back, it seems that blowing it to smithereens and starting from scratch might have been a better option.

If this latest Bill is passed it will be the sixth piece of legislation to be rubber stamped in six years; and that, in my view, seems bordering on the ridiculous.