Why is alcohol licensed?
Alcohol is a drug which causes significant harm. Legislation has existed for centuries to try and mitigate some of the problems caused by alcohol. There is legislation that makes being drunk and incapable of looking after yourself in public an offence; there is legislation that controls the production of alcohol. The legislation that controls the sale of alcohol is the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. Note that there is a raft of Regulations and Statutory Instruments which add to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 and there have also been some amendments created by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Alcohol Etc (Scotland) Act 2010.
What does the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 cover?
The Act controls the premises and people that can sell alcohol and the system of licensing. The legislation applies to both the on-trade (pubs, clubs and restaurants), and off-trade (supermarkets, convenience stores and off-licences).
The Licensing (Scotland) Act is based on 5 licensing objectives. All licensing decisions must be made with reference to these objectives and each is of equal importance:
- preventing crime and disorder
- securing public safety
- preventing public nuisance
- protecting and improving public health
- protecting children from harm
Licensing and public health
The 2005 Act makes the protection and improvement of public health an explicit purpose of the licensing system for the first time. Liquor licensing has always served a public health function. Regulation ensures the purity and safety of alcohol products sold to the public. Establishing and enforcing a minimum purchase age promotes public health by seeking to protect children from harm. Measures aimed at reducing alcohol-related disorder also promote public health by reducing the risk of alcohol-related violence and injury.
Training is required for the decision makers (Licensing Board members), compliance officers (Licensing Standards Officers) and those that sell alcohol (personal licence holders and staff).
Licensing Boards make decisions on applications and reviews of premises and personal licences. Licensing Standards Officers ensure that the licensed trade are complying with the law, but they also offer advice and mediate in low level disputes. Police enforce the law.