A new high water mark has been reached in the anti-drink tide flowing through Scotland, with the news that West Dunbartonshire Council has decided to impose a complete ban on any new drinks licences, in both the on and off-trade, in 15 out of 18 areas within the authority. In the remaining three areas applicants for licences will have to prove that customers would not travel from an “overprovision” area to purchase alcohol.
Inevitably this will lead to stagnation in the market and act to the detriment of responsible consumers of alcohol by blocking any new entrants, as Patrick Brown of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association rightly points out. “The Board appears to be more interested in political grandstanding than it is in public health,” he said.
The Chair of the Licensing Board, councillor Jim Brown, said: “We have far too many pubs, bars and off-sales shops given the size of the area.” Just what right does this self-important twerp have to make judgments as what constitutes “too many” pubs or off-licences? Surely the number is determined by the level of business – if all are trading profitably, then there cannot be too many.
And what evidence is there that freezing licences is likely to reduce either consumption in general or so-called “problem drinking”?
The policy is also likely to hold back economic development in the area, as who would want to open a new supermarket, hotel or sports club if they were unable to get an alcohol licence for it?
The report doesn’t say whether existing licences will be transferable – if they are, the move will have the unintended consequence of handing a potential goldmine to anyone who has one, as they will be able to sell it to the highest bidder.