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Caithness News Bulletins August 2003

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25 August 03
Proposals for the most comprehensive overhaul of Scotland's licensing laws in over 25 years have been published by the Scottish Executive.

The report of the Nicholson Committee recommends an entirely new Licensing Act for Scotland, including new 'licensing principles'.

The Scottish Executive has welcomed the publication of the report and launched an initial four-month consultation on the proposals.

Launching the Review Group's Report with Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson in Edinburgh today, the group's chairman Sheriff Principal Gordon Nicholson, highlighted 90 recommendations for reform. They include:
a clear set of licensing principles as a reference point for the new licensing system.  These are the   prevention of crime or disorder, the promotion of public safety, the prevention of public nuisance, the promotion of health, and the protection of children from harm;

abolishing the present outdated system of licences and opening hours, replacing them with a tailored 'premises by premises' approach authorised by local licensing boards in line with the new licensing principles;

a new general presumption that licensed premises should offer access to young people under the age of 18, promoting the introduction of young people to licensed premises in a responsible and supervised manner, but still retaining the current prohibitions against the sale or supply of alcohol to such young people;

a crackdown on 'irresponsible promotional activities' through a new standard condition of all licences that no advertising, promotion or price discounting should be carried out that might  encourage binge-drinking;

the introduction of a wide range of sanctions to be used by local licensing boards as appropriate;

the creation of Liquor Licensing Standards officers to support the majority of responsible licensees and ensure that sanctions are enforced against the small minority of licensees failing to comply with the terms of their licence;

and an end to piece-meal 'proof of age' schemes around Scotland with the introduction of a single national 'proof of age' card to strengthen the prohibition of the sale and supply of alcohol to young people under 18.

Sheriff Principal Nicholson said:
"This report represents a substantial package of measures which will simplify and improve Scotland's licensing law and practice. The review group, to whom I am grateful for their input and support, sees this as a coherent and complete package. I hope that the Executive and others will maintain this broad vision over the coming months of consultation.

I believe that this is a thoughtful and measured report that effectively balances the realities of alcohol consumption and licensing in the 21st century.

"The report recognises the real and legitimate concerns which exist in our homes and streets about the impact of alcohol misuse on our national health and public safety. It also recognises that the social consumption of alcohol in cafes, bars, pubs and clubs is an attractive and fundamental part of the lives and well-being of many residents of, and visitors to, our country. The recommendations would also remove what many see as unnecessarily restrictive opening hours for off-sale premises such as supermarkets and wine merchants.

"There are 90 detailed recommendations in our report. I hope and believe they will be carefully studied, analysed and scrutinised over the coming months. I want particularly to highlight the important principles that we have used to underpin those recommendations. These are guiding principles that we believe should form the foundations for a new Licensing Act for Scotland.

"We foresee a simple, streamlined licensing system that accepts that the law-abiding majority of Scots drink sensibly, and therefore should be as free from restrictions as possible. A licensing system that makes it possible for young people to be introduced to licensed premises in a responsible and supervised manner.

"Yet also a system that ensures restrictions are put in place to promote public health, public order and safety, and the protection of young people. A system where licensing boards, licensees and staff in licensed premises are well-trained. And further, a system where there is effective, regular and consistent enforcement of the terms of a licence."

Full details of the report and its recommendations can be accessed on the Scottish Executive website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/00017590