Licence fees could be next in line for change

Comment by Gillian McKenzie

Hot on the heels of an SLTA survey which revealed that licensees see legislation as the single biggest threat to their business came another call for yet more licensing law reform.
Unlike so many before it, however, this proposal was largely welcomed by many in the on-trade.
It came from former cabinet secretary for justice Kenny MacAskill, who wants licence fees to be based on the amount of alcohol sold, stating that “those who sell the most should pay the most”.
Writing in The Herald, he said: ”It’s ridiculous to have a well-run hotel paying the same price for a liquor licence as a major supermarket retailer.”
This will be music to the ears of many in the on-trade, who view the current fee structure, which applies to all premises and is based on rateable value, as unfair given that pubs are rated differently to shops.
The comments from MacAskill, who is due to stand down as an MSP next year, will no doubt carry some clout. He did, after all, hold the position of justice secretary for seven years until late 2014 – the same year in which a group set up to review the licence fees system failed to reach a consensus on an alternative, stating that a “fundamentally different” approach could not be justified at that stage.
It remains to be seen what action – if any – the Scottish Government takes now.
However, it once again highlights that the appetite to change licensing legislation has yet to diminish.