Scottish Government directs boards to be flexible on applications

LICENSING boards are being encouraged to employ “flexibility and pragmatism” as they process licence applications in the coming weeks.

New statutory guidance from the Scottish Government directs boards to use “flexibility and pragmatism in decision-making and sensitivity to the wider economic situation should be at the forefront of how a board decides to operate”.

With particular reference to occasional licences, which some operators will wish to apply for in order to use currently unlicensed spaces as beer gardens, the Scottish Government “expects licensing boards to approach decision-making with a keen and focused sense on the needs of the on-sale business to seek to recover from the coronavirus outbreak”.

“New and innovative ways to continue to trade and sell alcohol within the constraints of physical distancing will be essential and the Scottish Government expects all applications to be considered sensitively with no unnecessary hurdles having to be overcome prior to the granting of an occasional licence,” states the guidance.

The Scottish Government announced yesterday (June 18) that a decision on the reopening of outdoor areas will be taken on or around July 2.

The new statutory guidance was welcomed by Miller Samuel Hill Brown licensing director, and SLTN legal columnist, Jack Cummins.

“When the green light’s eventually given for outdoor opening, it’s absolutely vital that licensing boards get a move on,” he said.

“Sticking to the usual occasional licence processing times – four to six weeks – would be a show stopper. So we need a real fast-tracking effort and the absolute minimum of red tape.

“It’s already clear that some boards are keen to help the trade move off the starting block at speed. “But others are showing signs of designing an obstacle course and there’s a really welcome message from the guidance that there should be no unnecessary hurdles.”