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For further information write to:

Scottish Government Licensing Team
Area GW14
St Andrew's House
Regent Road


0131 244 7931

Policy in detail: Alcohol licensing

The Scottish Government is responsible for regulating the powers of Scottish local authorities and Licensing Boards in relation to licensing the sale of alcohol.

Licensing is the responsibility of Licensing Boards. Local Licensing Boards have wide discretion to determine appropriate licensing arrangements according to local needs and circumstances and their own legal advice.

The Scottish Government publishes annual Scottish liquor licensing statistics on the number of premises and personal licences in force, applications and reviews/proceedings.


The main piece of legislation that controls the sale of alcohol is the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005.

This Act balances the rights of the majority of people who drink responsibly against the need to protect local communities from nuisance and crime associated with misuse of alcohol. It is intended to provide a clear and consistent underpinning for the alcohol licensing regime in Scotland based upon the five licensing objectives:

  • preventing crime and disorder
  • securing public safety
  • preventing public nuisance
  • protecting and improving public health, and
  • protecting children and young persons from harm.

Further Acts that impact upon the licensing regime in Scotland include:

As well as this primary legislation, the licensing regime in Scotland is also affected by a range of secondary legislation.

Guidance for applicants and Licensing Boards

Applications for alcohol licences and more general queries about licensed premises should be made to your local Licensing Board, which can be found by consulting your local authority website

Scottish Government guidance regarding the alcohol licensing regime:

  • Modification to Guidance - June 2013 - this modification to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 guidance has been produced to assist Licensing Boards and clerks with the administration of the requirement for personal licence holders to evidence that they have undertaken refresher training, particularly in relation to those personal licences issued in the transition period between 1 March 2008 and 1 September 2009.
  • Alcohol etc (Scotland) Act 2010 - This guidance was prepared and issued in order to assist with the implementation of the Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Act 2010 with focus on Pricing of alcohol, Drinks promotions, Age verification policy, Licensing policy statements, Chief Constables’ Reports.
  • Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 – April 2007 - This guidance has been prepared in accordance with section 142 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. This guidance was produced in 2007 to support the implementation of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. Parts of this guidance are no longer up to date and will be updated.

Personal Licence

When selling alcohol on licensed premises, the sale must be authorised generally or specifically by a personal licence holder. The designated premises manager must possess a personal licence. In many premises, other members of staff also attain personal licences so that they can also authorise sales, conduct staff training, and as a matter of general best practice.

Personal Licence Refresher

The holder of a personal licence must undergo refresher training to ensure their licence remains valid. Gaining the refresher qualification is not sufficient in itself. The applicant must produce evidence that they have passed this refresher course, to the licensing board which granted their personal licence, within 5 years of the date of issue of their personal licence.

If personal licence holders do not refresh their training within the specified period, the Board will revoke their personal licence. For premises managers, the consequences of the revocation of a personal licence could include the sale of alcohol no longer being permitted in their premises, unless appropriate steps are taken to name an alternative personal licence holder as the designated premises manager.

It is important that personal licence holders undertake the refresher trainng in good time and submit their course certificate to the Licensing Board that issued their personal licence. The refresher training is a half day course offered by a wide variety of commercial trainers at a reasonable cost.

Further Information

Further details on how to get a personal licence or how to gain the refresher training certificate, can be found at the website for Scottish Certificate for Personal Licence Holders or by contacting your local Licensing Board.

Alcohol Byelaws

Public drinking can often be a nuisance to local communities and can greatly hamper the quality of life for residents in a particular area.

Local authorities have the power to make byelaws to ban drinking in designated public places under provisions contained in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, subject to confirmation by the Scottish Ministers.

Circular LJ/02/2014 provides advice to local authorities applying to the Scottish Ministers for the confirmation of byelaws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in designated public places.  It replaces the advice contained in circular JD/6/2007 and revises the advice in circular JD/08/2009.

If you are a member of the public and wish to know about alcohol byelaws that are in operation within your area or wish to suggest that an alcohol byelaw should be brought in, please contact your local authority.