The Scottish Grocers’ Federation’s campaign to stop 24-hour licensing in Scotland has received a fillip after the convener of the licensing committee tabled an amendment to the Licensing (Scotland) Bill.
SGF chief executive Scott Landsburgh said that the amendment to restrict licensing hours was necessary as the current Bill would force small retailers to trade for 24 hours, as they would have to compete with the multiples.
He added: “This also shows how seriously the off-trade is taking the issue of responsible drinking. We are not pushing the boat out for more and more selling hours, perhaps unlike some in the on-trade.”
The licensing reforms are expected to come into force by 2009, two years later than planned, but Landsburgh said this was a welcome delay if it meant avoiding the chaos that surrounded the licensing reforms in England and Wales. Under Scottish reforms, there will be an 18-month transitional period and each licence holder will be given a date to renew their licence so there will be no glut of last-minute applications.
And Landsburgh said that the Scottish Executive had responded favourably to 95% of the off-trade’s concerns about the draft Bill, including granting partial grandfather rights.
Scottish business also got an unexpected boost this week as First Minister Jack McConnell performed a u-turn and announced that business rates are to be cut.
“This is fantastic news,” said Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium. “We now have a level playing field with England and Wales. It can only be good for businesses, large and small,when they see their core costs reduced by 10%.
“But now the Executive has to give us a clear timetable for action.”