Enjoy safe festive night out in Highland licensed premises thanks to alcohol licensing changes

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The legislation changes have enabled closer partnership working between Highland Licensing Board, the licensed trade, Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Highland Licensing Forum Partnership

The Highland Licensing Forum, of which Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is a member, say the public can enjoy a safe festive night out in licensed premises thanks to an overhaul of the alcohol licensing system.

The Forum has announced that the alcohol licensing system is working well in Highland - six years after new legislation came into force in September 2009. 

The changes in legislation have enabled increased joint working between the Highland Licensing Board, the licensed trade, Police Scotland, and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. This joint working, combined with the introduction of Licensing Standards Officers, has improved public safety for people socialising in Licensed Premises.

Ramsay McGhee, Convener of Highland Licensing Forum said: “With the festive season upon us, many people across the Highlands will be planning nights out to celebrate. It may be comforting to them to note that they will be enjoying themselves in a licensing environment which is safer and more professionally run than ever before.

He explained: “The 2005 Act introduced a new licensing regime across Scotland which came into effect in 2009. This included compulsory training for premises managers and bar staff and a whole new system for applying for a licence or making objections or complaints.

“Early this year Highland Licensing Forum carried out a review of the operation of the Act in Highland area. The Forum looked back at the problems perceived to be caused by excess alcohol consumption including antisocial behaviour, crimes of disorder, health issues, underage drinking and binge drinking. 

“The Forum considered whether licensing arrangements after 2009 had reduced these problems taking into account statistical and anecdotal evidence from its members. We concluded that antisocial behaviour, assaults, serious assaults and crimes of disorder around licensed premises are reducing in number. 

“The review also showed that Proof of Age Schemes and Age Verification Policies have made it extremely hard for underage people to purchase alcohol from Licensed Premises. Recent evidence tends to show that most alcohol consumed by children or young people comes from domestic homes. 

“Professional stewarding of the late night economy aligned with proactive and well run Pubwatch schemes in Inverness and major towns across Highland have made a real impact in excluding persons who choose to indulge in anti-social behaviour in licensed premises. 

“Police Scotland and licence holders have long advocated the benefits of safe drinking in on-sales premises where public safety, and conformity with licensing laws and licence conditions are integral to the sale of alcohol, when compared to drinking at home and in other unregulated environments.”

Elisabeth Smart, Consultant in Public Health added: “NHS Highland and Highland Alcohol & Drugs Partnership (HADP) wish to encourage people to enjoy the festive celebrations while adhering to the recognised safe drinking limits (2 - 3 units per day for women and 3 - 4 units per day for men). People who have changed to drink more sensibly tell us they tend to sleep better, have more energy, feel happier and less anxious and have more money in their pockets. We know that alcohol continues to cause significant problems for some and we would urge anyone seeking information or advice in relation to issues concerning alcohol to consult the HADP website http://www.highland-adp.org.uk/alcohol.” 

Sergeant Bruce Gray, of Police Scotland Liquor and Civic Government Licensing Department: "The review carried out by the Highland Licensing Forum has been very useful in highlighting the successful steps taken by partner agencies to help keep people safe. Multi-agency initiatives such as Pub Watch and Operation Respect aim to ensure everyone can socialise safely across the Highlands and Islands. Police Scotland will continue to make the message very clear: anti-social and violent behaviour will not be tolerated. We will also continue to ensure young people are kept safe from harm associated with underage drinking.

"As part of ensuring people enjoy their night out, Police and partners encourage sensible drinking and looking after each other on nights out. Having the support of and working alongside Licensees, door and bar staff and of course patrons themselves allows the social economy of our towns and cities to flourish in addition to ensuring everyone enjoys their evenings out in a safe environment.”

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