convience retailers, spirits alcohol

The ACS said that if every personal licence north of the border were renewed, this would cost firms almost £3m

The convenience sector has warned that Scottish government plans to introduce alcohol licence renewal fees could lead to fewer qualified licence holders working in store.

The changes under The Licensing (Fees) (Scotland) Amendment regulations are scheduled to come into force on 1 October and will require a £50 payment for each personal licence holder to licensing boards unless members of the Scottish parliament challenge them.

The Association of Convenience Stores’ (ACS) chief executive, James Lowman, this week called on the Scottish government to relook at a policy which he said authorities in England and Wales had long deemed unnecessary.

“The introduction of personal licence fee renewals will introduce needless additional costs for retailers, especially those with more than one personal licence holder in each store.”

The ACS, which represents 33,500 local shops across the UK, had warned the Scottish government that the introduction of a fee would place unnecessary extra costs on retailers.

It also pointed out that some convenience retailers had multiple personal licence holders in each store. The renewal fee could discourage them from renewing each licence and deter them from having new people become personal licence holders.

This would ultimately mean fewer qualified licence holders working in each store.

The ACS said there were more than 56,000 personal licences in force north of the border and, if every licence were renewed, this would cost firms almost £3m.

In the Scottish government’s consultation on the fee, the ACS pointed out that alcohol represented 14.3% of sales to convenience stores and that 76% of convenience retailers in Scotland held a licence.

England and Wales removed the requirement to renew a personal licence in 2015. The UK government said at the time that it did not believe renewal fees were “effective and proportionate”.

The ACS criticised lack of clarity over the consultation process, complaining the government had published the amended regulations without discussing the consultation responses received and the reason for their decisions.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “The consultation responses have been carefully considered and the decision has been taken to create a fee at renewal of £50. This matches the existing fee on initial application. The regulations have been laid before the Scottish parliament and subject to the approval of parliament will come into force on 1 October 2018.”

Dr John Lee, head of public affairs at the Scottish Grocers Federation, said: “Scottish government has caved into pressure from local authorities and put this significant cost burden directly onto retailers. We have argued strongly that this should be paid from the overall fees local authorities collect from the licensing system. This is supposed to be on a cost recovery basis, but we know many local authorities essentially make a profit from the fees.”