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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 March, 2005, 19:57 GMT
New bill reforms laws on alcohol
Alcohol
Holyrood is determined to tackle Scotland's binge drinking culture
Proposals for the first major update of Scotland's licensing laws for 30 years have been unveiled at Holyrood.

The Scottish Executive has published its Licensing (Scotland) Bill, which follows the Nicholson review in 2003.

The bill aims to reduce irresponsible drinking and break the link between alcohol misuse and crime.

If approved, it would make happy hours illegal and would allow local boards to refuse a licence if an area was already flooded with pubs and clubs.

The bill would also replace the "outdated" regime of statutory opening hours for pubs with licences granted on a "premises by premises" approach.

Tavish Scott
There is no doubt irresponsible drinks promotions fuel the violence and anti-social behaviour which blight communities in Scotland
Tavish Scott
Deputy Finance and Public Services Minister

However, the presumption would be against 24-hour drinking, the executive said.

Tougher enforcement and a wider range of sanctions will be overseen by new Licensing Standards Officers (LSOs). There will also be mandatory training for pub staff.

Under-age drinking is to be tackled by ensuring all licensees operate a "no-proof, no-sale" system

The new bill gives residents more say in the process of determining who can sell alcohol in their area.

Licensing boards would have to regularly assess whether there were too many licensed premises in any given area and block new outlets in "hot-spots".

The bill aims to crack down on "irresponsible promotional activities" in order to deal with the binge drinking culture.

A new policy will ensure drinks have to be sold at the same price for at least 48 hours.

Drinks poster
The Bill curbs cut-price drink promotions

It is believed this would make it costly for a publican to maintain the reduced price and remove the incentive to drinkers to consume more quickly.

There will be a ban on specific irresponsible promotions that encourage binge and speed drinking such as two-for-ones.

Alcohol statistics published on Monday revealed the problem in Scotland cost 1.1bn in 2002/03 and showed that the number of alcohol-related deaths has risen from fewer than one in 100 in 1980 to one in 30.

'Grim record'

Deputy Finance and Public Services Minister Tavish Scott said the statistics underlined the need to improve Scotland's licensing laws.

He said: "There is no doubt irresponsible drinks promotions fuel the violence and anti-social behaviour which blight communities in Scotland.

"It is a simple fact that some promotions encourage many people to drink more alcohol and they therefore help contribute to our grim record in this area.

Drink in shop
Off-licences will be covered by the new laws

"By removing promotions like these we move closer to protecting young people and making our town and city centres safer helping to make Scotland a safer place to visit, live in and socialise."

The Scottish National Party's finance spokesman, Alasdair Morgan MSP, said he welcomed any move towards tackling binge drinking in Scotland.

"Scotland's drinking culture is a national disaster, and so we must all move forward together to address both the supply and demand for alcohol especially amongst the young," he added.

The Scottish Tories agreed that licensing laws should be updated but urged the executive not to ignore economic considerations.

A party spokesman said: "We must be wary of any suggestion that there is a simple solution to a complex issue or that centrally-imposed regulations can in themselves have a dramatic effect.

We're disappointed that the executive hasn't tackled the issue of cheap drink promotions in supermarkets and off-sales
Jack Law
Alcohol Focus Scotland

"The impact on the economy as well as the impact on health must be addressed."

The chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, Jack Law, backed steps to ban "irresponsible" drinks promotions and to introduce mandatory training.

But he said: "We're disappointed that the executive hasn't tackled the issue of cheap drink promotions in supermarkets and off-sales.

"And whilst we welcome mandatory training for servers of alcohol, this won't apply to casual staff. We believe everyone serving alcohol must be trained to the same high standard."

The convener of Glasgow Licensing Board, Councillor Gordon Macdiarmid, praised the executive for following its lead in some key areas, including consistent pricing and eliminating irresponsible promotions.

"I am, however, concerned that there appears to be no provision for occasional extensions, as in the current legislation, and also with the suggested responsibility for Licensing Forums," he said.


SEE ALSO:
Scots' excess drink cost 1.1bn
28 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Drink remark 'acts as diversion'
01 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Binge drinking link to rapes rise
17 Sep 04 |  Scotland


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