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Miller Samuel Hill Brown Solicitors Blog

From time to time we will post news articles and announcements relating to the firm and to various legal issues that may be of interest to you.

Personal Licences: The Looming Meltdown

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:

  • Submit a renewal application supported by a training qualification no later than 31 May 2019.
  • Complete refresher training against a deadline of 31 August 2019.
  • Provide the Licensing Board with evidence of refresher training no later than 30 November.

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:

  • It’s likely that the shape of renewals will be simplified, with a requirement only to undertake a form of refresher training; but at the moment - although the application “window” starts on 1 September - the Scottish Government has yet to take a decision on how the renewal procedure will work. An application fee has yet to be set.
  • When secondary legislation is commenced under the Immigration Act 2016, applicants will require to produce evidence of their right to work in the UK. The Home Office will be notified of applications and carry out status checks. Its capacity to deal with a flood of notifications on time is subject to serious doubt.
  • Section 52 of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, so far un-commenced, provides for the repeal of Section 129 of the 2005 Act. That will result in Licensing Boards requiring to consider convictions that so far have been treated as “spent”. In those cases, hearings will require to be held. The Scottish Government is being urged not to commence Section 52 until after 31 May next year.

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:

  1. The setting of a renewal fee.
  2. An extension of the closing date so that renewal applications can be lodged right up until 31 August 2019.
  3. Provision of “renewal pending” licences so that applicants’ licences will remain in force after 31 August 2019 until the determination of applications.

We’re closely tracking developments: further blogs will follow.

Contact our Licensing Solicitors Glasgow, Scotland

To find out more, please contact Jack CumminsAudrey Junner or Peter Lawson

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