Re-thinking alcohol licensing
The purpose of alcohol licensing is to regulate the availability of alcohol in Scotland. Licensing controls the total number and types of outlet permitted to sell alcohol, as well as opening hours and conditions of sale.
The licensing system exists because there is a consensus in society that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity.
The role of licensing is to manage the retail provision of alcohol in such a way as to minimise the risks of harm to individuals and society from its use.
The Scottish licensing system has developed over many years. Historically, licensing has been concerned with the intoxicating effects of alcohol and the maintenance of public order and has consequently focused on the activities of the on-trade – pubs and more recently night-clubs. However, growing knowledge of the role of alcohol in a wide range of acute and long-term disorders, and a greater understanding of its negative social impacts, has increased the demand for licensing to regulate availability in a way that addresses the full spectrum of alcohol-related harm. Furthermore, growing awareness of the role of off-sales and home drinking in driving consumption has led to calls for stricter regulation of the off-trade.