OVERPROVISION and outdoor areas are among the topics a Police Scotland unit wants to see debated as part of a “wider conversation about alcohol”.
Will Linden, acting director of the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), has called for a “review of licensing policy on the overprovision of on and off-sales” in towns and cities, claiming the “availability of alcohol means it is seen as an everyday product”.
Linden said there must be an “informed debate” about availability, including the number of licences and capacity, with input from licensees, members of the public, police, the health sector and local communities and businesses.
“I think we need to open up an honest conversation about alcohol,” he told SLTN.
“I’m not advocating the closing of businesses or the removal of licences. It’s more about, do we need to provide alcohol in garages, for example. And café culture – if it increases the capacity of city centre premises we’ve got to look at how that’s managed in terms of the trade but also in terms of policing and the impact on the local area.
“We know the majority of alcohol is sold in the off-trade. We know the on-trade has made great strides in terms of areas like safety and is generally well-run. But at the same time we have to think about the overall availability of alcohol.
“Some city centres are constantly putting in new bars and restaurants and we have to ask if there are too many in some areas.
“It’s not about taking away licences. But there is a whole debate to be had about alcohol and its availability.”
However SLTA chief executive Paul Waterson said any further debate about overprovision must acknowledge the distinction between the on and off-trades.
“People should be clear on overprovision; 74% of alcohol is sold in the off-trade and probably 90% of that in supermarkets,” he said.
“The market has changed. Premises that are opening are primarily food operations with bars in them; it would be churlish to refuse a food-based operation on the grounds of overprovision.
“When it comes to supermarkets boards are in a difficult position with overprovision; they have tried on many occasions to enforce it and can’t.”