C-stores north of the border will be hit hard in the pocket when new licensing fees come into force, according to the Scottish Grocers' Federation.
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has announced that under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2006, local licensing boards are to be empowered to set fee levels within a specified scale to cover administration costs and the salaries of new licensing standards officers.
The move follows government research that found current licence fee income met only 63% of administration costs.
The government has set the maximum fee for a premises licence application at £2,000, with the maximum annual fee fixed at £900. Both will be charged on a banded system based on rateable values. "[This system] will allow boards to make sure costs [of licensing] are fully met by fees charged and stop councils and taxpayers having to subsidise licensing boards," said MacAskill. "It's right that these costs should be met by the alcohol sector."
Independents faced a huge hike in annual licence fees, said SGF chief executive John Drummond. Instead of the £86 fee that a c-store currently paid for a three-year licence, a typical c-store would now be charged £220.
"This new fee structure for alcohol licences is yet another example of the unfair levies on small stores," he added. "The biggest superstore will pay only three times more than a typical c-store."
The government has not yet revealed when the new fees will be applied.