Edinburgh Licensing Board votes to change festive trading policy

EDINBURGH’s licensing board has voted to change the city’s policy on festive trading hours from next year, with festive trading to be decided on a year-by-year basis.

Currently, venues in Edinburgh are allowed two additional hours of trading between 18th December and 3rdJanuary. From next year, the start of the festive trading hours will be decided on a year-by-year basis and will run until 2nd January, not the 3rd.

The change was decided as the board considered its new licensing policy statement, with both NHS Lothian and Police Scotland having requested a cut to festive hours during a recent public consultation.

After debating various options – including removing the additional hours altogether, reducing the additional festive and festival hours to one extra hour of trading instead of two or keeping the two extra hours but starting them on 20th December instead of the 18th – the board decided to adopt a new ‘flexible’ approach to its festive hours policy.

Board convenor, councillor Louise Young, said the discussion around reducing festive trading hours ‘was prompted by concerns raised around public health and the additional pressure on our public services organisations including NHS Lothian and Police Scotland, over the winter period’.

“The board took the final decision to remove only the 3rd January, and instead of a fixed start of 20th December, to instead look at this on a year by year basis so that consideration can be given to when the weekends fall before Christmas,” said Young.

“Today’s decision does not affect the festive trading hours for this year but will come into operation for the 2024 festive season.

“I feel today’s decision to have a varied start date strikes a balance between the concerns raised by both partner organisations and the hospitality trade associations. It gives us the opportunity to be flexible when deciding the start date meaning each year we can take into account the Christmas weekend.”

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association called the decision ‘disappointing’.

“It’s disappointing that the board have decided to cut festive trading, especially given the extremely difficult trading conditions and inflationary pressures at the moment,” said the group’s spokesman, Paul Togneri.

“The decision to vary the start date of festive hours each year also adds uncertainty for business and staff. Many will be worried that the board will attempt to further curtail festive trading in years ahead.”