Council calls time on off-licence numbers

The council says drinkers are travelling through the city to buy booze (Picture by metacheetr)

A SCOTTISH council is calling time on new off licences in a bid to help beat the nation’s drinking culture.

Edinburgh City Council wants to limit the number of off-licences in the capital, which is currently home to 412 stores – around one for every 1,000 residents.

The “radical” move is being considered as part of a drive to cut down on cheap booze in the city.

It is estimated that almost 80% of Edinburgh’s adult population live within 400 metres of a shop selling alcohol.

Council licensing chiefs have decided a cap on licence numbers across the city is better than limiting their number in trouble hot-spots because “a substantial number of individuals are travelling within the city to purchase alcohol.”

Aileen Keyes, policy and campaigns manager for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “The proposal threatens to prevent responsible new premises from gaining a licence and creating jobs in Edinburgh whilst restricting choice for responsible consumers. It will do nothing to tackle irresponsible licence holders or alcohol-related harm.”

Patrick Browne, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: “The board seems to have taken a decision and then consulted on it, which is the wrong way around.”

However, alcohol expert Jonathan Chick, an honorary professor at Queen Margaret University, backed the proposals. He said: “The general availability of alcohol is a causal factor in the social and health harms of alcohol and when the number of outlets increases there is likely to be more discounting to keep ahead of the competition, and the matter of price is something that a lot of investigators think is very important.”

Jennifer Curran, head of policy, research and communications at Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “We need to shift the focus away from individual ‘problem’ licensed premises, to managing the overall availability of alcohol. We welcome this strong statement from Edinburgh licensing board.”

Councillor Marjorie Thomas, the city’s licensing leader, said: “The board is consulting with a number of stakeholders to establish if the approach to licensing off-sales in Edinburgh requires radical overhaul.”