Retailers have welcomed plans to reform the Scottish licensing regime, particularly proposals for a mandatory national proof-of-age scheme.

The proposals have been put forward by the Nicholson committee, which was appointed by the Scottish Executive.

Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief executive Scott Landsburgh said the plans were in line with recommendations it had made more than two years ago.

Landsburgh said: “The committee has taken the right approach.

“The licensing principles are fair and open and we are particularly pleased with the support for a national proof-of-age scheme.”

If the proposals are adopted young people would have to show an ID card to prove they were over the age of 18 when they bought alcohol. That measure is in line with the SGF’s “no proof, no sale” campaign.

The British Retail Consortium’s Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) logo would be used to identify legitimate ID cards, Landsburgh said.

Under the proposals, which are open for public consultation until December, stores would be able to apply for 24-hour licences to sell alcohol.

Landsburgh predicted there was unlikely to be a surge of retailers applying for round-the-clock licences. Instead they
would add an hour or two on the end of current hours.

Scottish licensing hours are 8am to 10pm from Monday to Saturday and 8am to 12.30pm on Sunday, at the moment.

Scottish Retail Consortium director Fiona Moriarty also welcomed the proposals. She said: “Retailers welcome the report and we now hope the Scottish Executive adopts these proposals and introduces them into the law as soon as possible.”

Association of Convenience Stores public affairs and commercial manager James Lowman said the Nicholson report suggested a ban was placed on ‘happy hours’ in the on-trade and this raised fears that price promotions on alcohol might be viewed as the off-trade equivalent.

As a result, the ACS is studying the proposals to see whether a ban could affect promotions instore. He said: “The ban on happy hours is to discourage binge drinking, therefore as far as we are concerned there is no link between price promotions on volume and binge drinking.”

The ACS is also examining the possible impact of the legislation on the rest of the UK. Lowman said: “A successful mandatory proof-of-age scheme would influence thinking in Westminster - particularly on proposals for an Entitlement Card.”
Anne Bruce