Alcohol Licensing in Communities


About the Inquiry

The key legislation that controls the sale of alcohol in Scotland is the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. Subsequent Acts that have also had an impact on the sale of alcohol are the Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Act 2010, the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, and the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015.

In a letter to the Committee in November 2017, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice indicated that the Scottish Government was currently working on updating the statutory guidance for alcohol licensing. It expected that this work to be completed by mid-2018.

In November 2018, the Scottish Government published a revised strategy: the Alcohol Framework 2018: Preventing Harm. As with the previous strategy, this strategy adopts a “whole population approach”. In other words, it looks at improving health outcomes across the whole population rather than focussing only on problem drinkers. Reducing the general availability of alcohol is argued to be an important part of this. Other key themes are:

  • protecting young people;
  • tackling health inequalities;
  • improving national systems.


At its meeting on 31 January 2018 the Committee agreed to hold a one-off round table evidence session on Alcohol Licensing in Scotland in order to explore the ability of communities to engage with and influence alcohol licensing decisions in their areas.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

The Committee took evidence from:

  • Laura Mahon, Deputy Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland;
  • Mairi Millar, Clerk, City of Glasgow Licensing Board;
  • Fiona Stewart, Depute Clerk, North Aberdeenshire Licensing Board;
  • Susan Elliot, Alcohol and Drugs Partnership Coordinator, NHS Borders and Member of the Scottish Borders Local Licensing Forum;
  • Stuart Wilson, Chairman, East Ayrshire Licensing Forum;
  • Chief Inspector Alison Kennedy, Safer Communities, Police Scotland;
  • Roger Colkett, Tollcross Community Council;
  • John Shearer, President, Scottish Licensed Trade Association;
  • John Lee, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Scottish Grocers Federation.

Papers for meeting on 23 May 2018 (1MB pdf)
Official Report of meeting on 23 May 2018

Following this session, the Committee agreed to invite the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, who at the time held portfolio responsibility for licensing in the Scottish Government, to give evidence on issues raised during the roundtable. The session was to take place on 27 June 2018, but a ministerial reshuffle just before the meeting led to the session being postponed. Portfolio responsibility for alcohol licensing remains within the Justice Department but now rests with the Minister for Community Safety.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

The Committee took evidence from:

  • Ash Denham, Minister for Community Safety, and Peter Reid, Team Leader - Licensing, Criminal Law, Practice and Licensing Unit, Scottish Government.

Papers for meeting on 27 March 2019 (109KB pdf)
Official Report of meeting on 27 March 2019

Following the evidence session, the Committee considered the evidence and agreed to write to the Scottish Government, the Law Society of Scotland and licensing boards about matters arising from the evidence.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

The Committee took evidence in a round table format from:

  • Margaret Mary Cairns, Legal Services Manager, South Lanarkshire Licensing Board;
  • Aidan Collins, Senior Coordinator, Alcohol Focus Scotland;
  • James Douglas, Legal Services Manager, Inverclyde Licensing Board;
  • Mairi Millar, Clerk, City of Glasgow Licensing Board;
  • Maria Reid, Interim Head of Health, NHS Lanarkshire;
  • Elaina Smith, Health Improvement Lead Alcohol Licensing, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership;
  • Cllr Norman Work, Convener, Edinburgh Licensing Board.

Papers for meeting on 18 September 2019 (281KB pdf)
Official Report of meeting on 18 September 2019


2017 Correspondence

2019 Correspondence

Following the evidence session on alcohol licensing in Scotland with the Minister for Community Safety on 27 March 2019, the Committee agreed to write to the Minister for Community Safety, the Law Society of Scotland and Clerks of all Licensing Boards in Scotland:

The following responses were received:

Minister for Community Safety

Law Society of Scotland

Licensing Boards

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