On the inception of Police Scotland in April 2013, it was quickly identified that a number of varying IT systems for the administration and operational management of liquor licensing existed across the country and, crucially, these systems were not linked or connected in any way.
It was clear that the creation of a national IT system, which would also incorporate civic licensing, would provide real benefits particularly in terms of consistency and prevention opportunities.
Police Scotland was fully committed in developing the new Innkeeper system, which was rolled out in March 2016, providing, for the first time, easily accessible national data to our licensing teams.
The Innkeeper system has two differing purposes – the administration and the local operation aspects of licensing – although one naturally influences the other.
In relation to licence administration, Police Scotland has a statutory responsibility to participate, and this system allows us to more effectively and consistently respond to those obligations.
For example, the capability to identify persons who have applied to a local authority but may have previously been refused or revoked in a separate area has obvious benefits.
Consistency is important; it is only right that where applications are received they are consistently dealt with throughout Scotland from Aberdeen to Dumfries.
I have ensured that supporting guidance and scrutiny, both at a local and national level, is in place to support this and I do recognise that there are often local nuances which need consideration.
In relation to the operational aspects of police licensing, I am acutely aware that the majority of licence holders and their staff work tirelessly to provide a safe environment for their patrons.
The recording of positive interactions with premises and staff is a key aspect of Innkeeper and it is essential the records are balanced and fair and as an organisation we must utilise that information to influence our decisions at a local level.
I am confident that the system will significantly improve and enhance our capabilities in this regard.
Innkeeper is now the repository where all our operational officers will record inspections or incidents at licensed premises.
Recording such information allows a balanced and fair picture of what is happening to be established and assists in forging positive relationships.
I want to be clear that prior to any information being accepted into Innkeeper, it is additionally scrutinised by the divisional licensing teams to ensure it is relevant to the premises in question and that the information is directly linked to the operation of the premises.
There will be occasions where routine inspections or incidents result in further interaction; this will involve our licensing teams considering the issue and looking at the best way to resolve the problem or highlighting the positive contribution – often this is engagement with licence holders. Other benefits will be the ability to look at preventative opportunities and the sharing of best practice.
Our approach will always be preventative and collaborative, working towards developing and enhancing positive partnerships.
I have no doubt that as we move forward the system will develop further and show it has benefits for all who have an interest or involvement in safe, responsible and effective licensing.
Ultimately, Innkeeper is about keeping our communities and people safe.