An estimated 50,000 - 60,000 personal licences issued under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 (“the 2005 Act”) require to be renewed no later than 31 August next year. That deadline may seem comfortably far away. But licensing lawyers, trainers and Licensing Board clerks are already predicting a meltdown that could lead to business closures throughout the country.
In order to trade, licensed premises must have a premises manager holding a personal licence authorising the holder to supervise or authorise the sale of alcohol. A personal licence lasts 10 years and is subject to a renewal procedure. The licences that came into effect with the commencement of the 2005 Act on 1 September 2009 expire on 31 August 2019.
But personal licences must also be “refreshed”: that is to say, holders are obliged to complete refresher training before the expiry of each five-year period.
As the legislation stands at the moment, where a personal licence came in effect on 1 September 2009, the holder must:
Refresher training pitfalls were exposed in 2014 when an estimated 10,000 licences required to be revoked because the holders had either failed to complete training or missed the deadlines.
The renewal process throws up extra dangers. Even if an application is submitted on time, there’s no safety net: if the renewal hasn’t been completed by 31 August 2019, the licence will lapse. There are concerns that Licensing Boards with finite resources will be swamped with applications that simply can’t be processed in time. Those worries are exacerbated by other factors:
Councillor Ronnie McNicol, the Convenor of North Ayrshire Licensing Board, has said that a “tipping point” has been reached and predicts that pubs and other licensed premises across Scotland will close unless the Scottish Government “deals with this issue immediately”. He’s called for three changes to be put in place:
We’re closely tracking developments: further blogs will follow.