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Ban on pubs' irresponsible drinks promotions working

A new research study published today reports that fewer irresponsible promotions are taking place in Scotland’s pubs and clubs since the implementation of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005.

The Act, which came into effect in 2009, outlaws any promotion that provides alcohol free of charge, or at a discounted price on the purchase of one or more drinks. It also bans licensed premises from offering happy hours, drinking games or speed-drinking deals.

The report found that the role of Licensing Standards Officers (LSOs), established by the Act, were key to achieving the Act’s success by working closely with alcohol licensees to supervise compliance, and provide information, guidance and mediation for disputes.

Over 200 people representing the licensed trade, alcohol policy, LSOs, Licensing Boards and Local Licensing Forums took part in a three-year study to gather industry, policy and community views on the impact of the Act following its implementation.

Keith Simpson, Chair of the national networking group of LSOs, said:

“I think this role works because in practice it’s a collaboration with the licensed trade to ‘nip problems in the bud’ before things get out of hand. It’s about support, not punishment – licensees would rather take advice from us to ensure that good standards are in place than come under review by their local Licensing Board.”

“It’s clear that licensees are more aware, more responsible, and have definitely raised their game recently.”

The research is a key part of NHS Health Scotland’s work to monitor and evaluate Scotland’s alcohol strategy (MESAS), funded by Scottish Government. It also showed that mandatory training for LSOs, Board members and trade staff has increased knowledge and standards of professional practice.

Paul Waterson, CEO of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said:

“The licensed trade is committed to implementing the highest professional standards and has invested in training more than 47,000 personal license holders in Scotland since the introduction of the Act.

“We’re encouraged that the study reports improved trade practice and are confident this means we’re moving in the right direction.”

Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive at Alcohol Focus Scotland, said:

“The Licensing Act has reduced irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs but cheap, high-strength alcohol is still being sold in off-sales, particularly supermarkets. To address this, we need minimum pricing implemented without any further delay.

“Action that licensing boards take to reduce the availability of alcohol in order to reduce harm will be limited while alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices.

“We need to ensure that licensing boards are able to take decisions that are in the public interest without fear of being taken to court by large retailers with deep pockets”.

This research, carried out by ScotCen, follows a recent study which showed a reduction in sales following the introduction of the Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Act in October 2011.

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