Licensing board rules out over-provision statement on off-sales
Shetland’s area licensing board has stopped short of insisting Lerwick has an over-provision of off-sales premises.
But members have agreed to act on any further guidelines provided by Scottish ministers in the future.
It follows consultation exercises which raised questions over whether the town had too many off-sale outlets for alcohol.
At a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Paul Wishart from the SIC’s legal department said guidance from Scottish ministers dated back to 2007 and was currently under review.
Current case law on over-provision guides board members to identify “particular evidence” relating to the “particular area, or application, under consideration”.
A report before members stated: “General evidence that increased availability of alcohol leads to increased harm from alcohol does not of itself justify or lead to a conclusion that there is over-provision in any particular area.”
That led to concerns the board could leave itself open to more appeals against refusals.
Chairman Ian Scott said a statement of over-provision would be more likely to hinder rather than help the situation regarding alcohol consumption.
“We’d be open to appeals at any instance,” he said.
Responding to questions, Mr Wishart said a statement of over-provision would make no difference to existing outlets.
“It’s just for the policy going forward,” he said.
Discussion focused on education aimed at changing attitudes to alcohol.
Shetland West councillor Catherine Hughson said: “I think early intervention starts at a really early age and is making good inroads in schools about drugs and alcohol. To me, that’s where this needs to be supported.”
South Mainland councillor George Smith – who also chairs the education and families committee – agreed.
“Whether we have an over-provision statement or not I don’t think it will make a huge odds,” he said.
“Availability of alcohol will still be the same. I think it’s about trying to educate folk to use alcohol in a different way than they currently do.”
Lerwick North member Stephen Leask said he had been interested in a UK-wide study which showed alcohol was “on the wane”.
Shetland North member Alastair Cooper said a large number of people were drinking at home before they went out.
“I don’t think this is going to deal with alcohol consumption in Shetland,” he said.
• See Friday’s Shetland Times for more on this story