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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2007, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Late-night bars face police costs
Bar scene - generic
The proposal is to charge a fee to late-licensed premises
Additional charges on late-opening bars and clubs are being considered by the Scottish Executive.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the charges would help pay for additional policing in areas where late drinking causes anti-social behaviour.

The proposals have been criticised by licensed trade industry leaders.

The forthcoming Licensing Bill aims to tackle Scotland's alcohol problems and Mr MacAskill has said effective enforcement is key to its success.

Speaking at an Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) seminar on licensing, Mr MacAskill said he would outline the ways the government plans to achieve effective enforcement.

It's not right that taxpayers pick up the whole of the bill, licensees should pay their way too
Kenny MacAskill
Justice Secretary

He stressed the important role the police will play, saying they would be working with licensing officers and boards to make the act work, help to clamp down on underage sales, irresponsible promotions and third-party purchasing of alcohol for young people.

Mr MacAskill said: "Alcohol misuse is causing too much harm to Scottish people and communities.

"It's destroying health, fuelling anti-social behaviour and causing crime - that's why we need to take action to make our communities safer today and make our nation healthier in the future. The Licensing Act is a big step in the right direction."

The justice secretary suggested to senior police officers the idea of charging an additional fee to late-licensed premises to help pay for additional policing, and asked for their views.

'Polluter pays'

This would be applied in areas where alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour is a problem, such as city centres.

Mr MacAskill said the charge would operate on the principle that the "polluter pays".

He said: "The effects of alcohol on our city and town centres is not cost free and those who profit from it must contribute to addressing it.

"It's not right that taxpayers pick up the whole of the bill, licensees should pay their way too."

CONSULTATION ON FEES

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Mr MacAskill added that the proposal raised several practical questions, such as the level of charges.

He said: "I want to hear views on this and that's why I've included it in the consultation on fee levels. I will be discussing the proposal further with senior police officers and carefully considering responses to the consultation before announcing our plan on fees later in the autumn."

Colin Wilkinson, secretary of the Scottish Licensed Traders Association, said pub and club owners were already paying for policing through alcohol duty and commercial rates.

He added: "Again it seems to be the pubs and clubs that are being targeted. It would appear that we are to be responsible for what happens on the streets.

"In our view we are already paying for this service."

A spokesman for Scottish Labour said they welcomed Mr MacAskill's announcement, which they said had been their idea in the first place.

The move was attacked by the Lib Dem MSP Robert Brown, who said it was "unfair if not unworkable in practice."

Mr Brown added: "Bad licensees should be closed down if they take an irresponsible attitude and allow drunken behaviour stemming from their premises.

"Binge drinking and drunken behaviour is a problem whether it is 3am in the morning or at some other time."

The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 received royal assent in December 2005 and is aimed at simplifying and reforming current legislation which dates back to the 1970s.

The Scottish government is in the process of implementing the act through various regulations and its current consultation on fees ends on 17 September.

Further measures to deal with the problem of underage drinking are likely to be announced next week.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
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SEE ALSO
'Vertical drinking' curbs planned
13 Aug 07 |  Tayside and Central
Cheap drink offers could be axed
01 Jun 07 |  Scotland
Alcohol abuse 'becoming epidemic'
02 Nov 06 |  Scotland
Bid to stop 'vertical drinking'
02 Aug 06 |  Lancashire
The myths and science of drink
26 Jul 06 |  Magazine

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