New boards need new guidance

Comment by Gillian McKenzie

As the votes were counted last week, determining the new make-up of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, the trade was holding its breath.

The local elections mean a raft of new councillors taking charge of a host of factors affecting businesses – and a raft of new councillors elected as licensing board members deciding the fate of licensed premises.

Add into the mix the piles of legislation, the ten year old guidance for licensing boards, and the fact that new policy statements are due to be drafted in the coming months and it looks like many incoming board members could be in for a challenging time.

It goes without saying that the sale of alcohol must be regulated, and of course local perspective on things is important; but it is the differences in approach by licensing boards to the same pieces of legislation that rankles the trade.

From the very first licensing policy statements produced by boards after the 2005 Act came into force in 2009, which ranged from a few pages in some cases to a weighty tome in others, it was clear there were going to be very different approaches across the country. Since then, of course, there has been a raft of new legislation, and, as we have reported many times, repeated calls from the trade for the Scottish Government to issue new guidance for boards.

As SLTN’s legal columnist Jack Cummins said last week, the guidance is “not only moth-eaten, in parts it’s just plain wrong”.
It’s high time the Scottish Government issued new and updated guidance for boards – if not to achieve a more consistent approach, at least to help new board members get to grips with the innumerable bits of legislation.