A devastating blow for Scottish retailers

John Drummond CEO, Scottish Grocers' Federation Sir; The fees that Scottish shops will have to pay for their alcohol licence under new licensing legislation will have a devastating effect on small shops and serves to illustrate the unfair way they are treated by government ('Scottish c-stores set to be hit by massive licence fee hikes, The Grocer, 5 January, p8). Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has said licensing boards can charge double the amount recommended by an independent research company appointed by the Scottish Executive for new applications. For a typical convenience store, these new fees represent a staggering 667% increase over the current fees and that is on top of an £800 fee for the premises licence to begin with. MacAskill keeps banging on about cheap alcohol in the large supermarkets but he has missed a huge opportunity to charge them more in proportion. The fees are based on rateable value, but the biggest superstore will pay only three times more than a typical convenience store when the turnover on average is more than 50 times higher! The so-called superstores will be able to absorb these higher fees and still offer deep discounts while at the other end of the scale some small stores may be forced to re-think whether they can afford to continue selling alcohol. That has serious consequences for stores that are in rural and remote areas in particular. Exactly the same situation applies to property rates where the respective charges made between small shops and superstores do not reflect the difference in level of turnover. This new fee structure for alcohol licences is yet another example of the unfair levies on small stores, which may even result in store closures across the country.