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Times still a-changin' in '18

15 April 18

Licensing briefing: three major legislative changes, each relating to a different aspect of the law affecting the licensed trade, will be in force by next month

by Tom Johnston

 

As some time has gone by (hallelujah) since we saw some new draft legislation from Holyrood on the topic of licensing, the non-specialist might be fooled into thinking that all is quiet on the western front. In fact, the opposite is the case. The next few months will see the implementation of some important law reforms and, by the time this article goes to press, one will already be in force. Since this article was drafted, I learn there is to be further consultation on the procedures for applying for a premises licence or a variation. Even more change may be looming. But first, the here and now.

Minimum pricing finally in force

The best publicised of these changes relates to the minimum pricing of alcohol (MUP). Following lengthy litigation, the legislation will come into force to 1 May 2018. From that date, it will be illegal to sell alcohol in licensed premises below a price calculated according to the alcoholic strength of the product sold. Despite any amount of publicity, there are always large sections of the licensed trade who are woefully unprepared for change. One should welcome, therefore, the Scottish Government’s attempt to help the confused by a Q&A document, which you can find at bit.ly/2FGdFsR.

Sadly, it is yet another example of official fudge. Most of its content is simply a justification for the legislation. Staggeringly, it does not even tell a shopkeeper how to calculate the minimum price. Experience suggests that a lot of our clients are confused and will need help. The formula is set out in s 1 of the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 as MPU x S x V x 100, where MPU is the minimum price per unit (now set at £0.50), S is the strength of the alcohol, and V is the volume of the alcohol in litres.

A standard bottle of spirits is 70cl, i.e. 0.7 litres, and the normal ABV of Scotch whisky (obviously this may vary) is 40%. The ABV will always be marked on the container. In this case the formula would be £0.50 x 40 x 0.7 x 100. The answer will be in pence, in this case 1,400 or £14. Some worked examples are given in another official document which you can find at bit.ly/2p3gdYs. It should be noted that there is no period of grace. New prices, if required, must be in place by 1 May. As clients will have to change displays, websites, promotional material and more, they must be informed immediately.

Disabled facilities

Less obviously dramatic are the Premises Licence (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2018; however, if you are advising on an application for a new premises licence from 30 March 2018, you will need to be aware of them. In essence, an applicant will be required to lodge a disabled access and facilities statement along with the other required documentation. The form of this statement is contained in the regulations. Failure to provide a statement will not be grounds for refusal, but a licensing board may not consider your application without one. 

I looked at disability issues in more detail last time (Journal, January 2018, 30). Guidance notes are available online: see bit.ly/2GmQyle. I have fairly strong views on Government guidance notes – indeed, they are likely to be the topic of a future article. Having said that, this set is quite useful. It is worth bearing in mind that applications made prior to 30 March are unaffected.

Data protection alert

The third date for your diary is 25 May 2018. On that date the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. This is a European Regulation (2016/679) making changes to data protection law. As many clients in the licensed trade hold a lot of data, primarily used for marketing purposes, it will impact on them. It is beyond the scope of this column to advise on such matters. Information is available on the Law Society of Scotland website. Even if you don’t provide advice on data protection matters, I suggest you should be making clients aware of the imminent changes. With immigration issues now ever more onerous, and with renewal of personal licences, involving more retraining, on the horizon for many, there is no let up for the beleaguered licensee. 

Tom Johnston, Ormidale Licensing Services 

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