Board to debate whether too much alcohol is on sale across the isles

Licensing board members are to consider whether too much alcohol on sale is harming public health.

The board met today (Monday) to consider two off-sales applications for new Co-op stores in Scalloway and Sandwick.

While members eventually approved the provisional applications, many also echoed concerns raised by the health board about “overprovision” of alcohol.

Public health and planning principal Elizabeth Robinson had commented on the applications, saying they represented a “huge increase” in the availability of off-sales alcohol.

Board chairman Neil Pearson also noted the recent concerns about underage drinking in Lerwick raised at last week’s full council meeting had involved off-sales alcohol.

He said the board would have to consider the wider issues in the “very near future”.

The SIC’s political leader Emma Macdonald said she was “sympathetic” with the NHS’s concerns and recognised the health risks.

Ms Macdonald said she was particularly concerned about easy access to alcohol at a time when people may be struggling with other issues. 

Lerwick North and Bressay councillor Stephen Leask was also understanding of the health board’s concerns.

He suggested alcohol could be kept hidden, in a similar way to tobacco.

Mr Leask asked whether the Co-op could have adopted the health board’s suggestions to reduce the amount of alcohol on display and limit it to certain parts of the stores.

Co-op representative Eilidh McGuire said careful consideration had been given to the health board’s suggestions.

However, she said restricting the alcohol sales space did not reduce the amount sold – it merely required more frequent restocking.

Ms McGuire said alcohol sales represented 12 per cent of the store space – which was in line with its national policy.

She said alcohol  could be better monitored by having it near the front of the store, which also helped reduce shoplifting.

Shetland North’s Tom Morton had asked whether the Co-op considered the location of more “problematic” forms of alcohol, such as Buckfast and quarter bottles of spirits, which he hoped to see kept behind the counter, as they are in his local Brae Co-op.

Ms McGuire said that was the case. She also said there would be visits to local schools to address issues of underage drinking.

Shetland Central’s Catherine Hughson questioned how an area of alcohol overprovision was determined.

Council lawyer Paul Wishart said the board’s latest policy stated there was no overprovision in Shetland – though this could be reviewed. 

He said there were currently 147 licensed premises in Shetland.

While acknowledging board members had raised “valid” points about the potential overprovision of alcohol, Mr Wishart suggested it would be better discussed at a different forum – rather than when a live application was being decided.

The board heard the Co-op stores are expected to open late 2023 or early 2024 – a marked delay on initial suggestions they could have opened by the end of this year.

Ms McGuire said the two stores each represented an investment of around £1.5m and would create 15 new jobs. She said the location of the stores had been identified as “under-served catchment areas”.

She said the Co-op was “very keen” to make sure the stores were well run, did not contribute to any problems and provided “demonstrable benefits”.

The provisional licences are for the sale of alcohol from 10am-10pm seven days a week.


Add Your Comment
  • George Stewart

    • October 3rd, 2022 12:38

    Do not see the point in this. I would drive the length and breadth of Shetland if I was seeking alcohol. It will not reduce drinking. More worried about the fuel price if I need to drive to lerwick for a carry oot.


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