Review of Alcohol Licensing Fees

The aim of the research was to evaluate the current alcohol licensing fees regime and consider the efficacy of other potential structures to inform the Scottish Government’s proposed reform of the fees regime

2 Methodology

2.1 An approach was developed to meet all of the research aims and objectives stated in the study brief. The methodology is summarised below.

Legislative and Document Review

2.2 One of the first tasks was to carry out a review of relevant legislation and other significant research in the field. From this understanding of the operating context a scoping exercise was then undertaken with two local authority Licensing Board staff to ensure a full understanding of the types of data available and those datasets that would provide the most meaningful insight into current delivery and operation of alcohol licensing fees in Scotland.

Survey of Licensing Boards

2.3 The data collection phase crucial to the establishment of a factual baseline and a key tool in the methodology was an online survey of (and financial data collection from) licensing boards.

2.4 An online survey was sent to 47 email addresses for Licensing Boards provided by the Scottish Government. Two emails 'bounced' due to incorrect addresses. Survey responses were tracked and three email reminders sent encouraging respondents to complete the survey. After ten days all those within the survey population who had not yet accessed the survey were called by telephone to establish whether contact had been made with the most relevant person. This exercise and a number of calls from Licensing Board staff resulted in 11 email addresses being deleted and 4 email addresses being added. Further reminders were sent and extensions to the survey closing date were granted on a number of occasions. The survey ran from 28th February until 25th April 2013.

2.5 Survey responses were received from all 32 Local Authority areas. While a number of Licensing Board Subdivisions exist, survey responses were received from Local Authority boundaries rather than Licensing Board Subdivision boundaries.

2.6 Those people who completed the survey at the Licensing Boards covered a broad range of occupations including:

  • Clerk to the Board/ Depute Clerk to the Board (8);
  • Head of Legal Services/ Chief Legal Officer/ Legal Services Manager/ Legal Manager/ Legal and Procurement Manager (8)/ Chief Solicitor/ Principal Solicitor/ Senior Solicitor (6)/ Managing Solicitor - Licensing/ Solicitor Licensing/ Paralegal/ Legal Clerk;
  • Regulatory Services Manager/ Principal General Services Officer;
  • Service Manager Licensing/ Consumer Protection Manager/ Licensing Services Team Leader (2)/ Licensing Standards Officer;
  • Development and Information Officer (2)/ Administrative Assistant/ Licensing Administrator (3).[2]

2.7 Those responding to the survey were, in the main, at a senior level within each Licensing function, with over two thirds of respondents being Clerk or Depute Clerk to the Licensing Board, Senior Solicitors or Senior Managers.

2.8 A financial data collection spread sheet was issued in conjunction with the online survey. 18 respondents completed the income spreadsheet but only 15 completed the expenditure spread sheet. Only Aberdeenshire provided any information at Licensing Board Subdivision level (though their expenditure information was at local authority level). All others reported at a local authority level.

Stakeholder Consultation

2.9 Semi-structured interviews were conducted with key stakeholders to gauge initial views on current provision of alcohol licensing services and fees. All interviewees were issued with a topic guide in advance of the interview and given the opportunity to review the notes recorded from the discussion. Stakeholders interviewed were:

  • Alcohol Focus Scotland;
  • Edinburgh Licensing Board;
  • Renfrewshire Licensing Board;
  • The Law Society of Scotland;
  • Scottish Beer and Pub Association;
  • Scottish Grocers Federation;
  • Scottish Retail Consortium;
  • Scottish Licensed Trade Association;
  • Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Stakeholder Case Study Visits

2.10 The research team carried out case study visits to a selection of stakeholders to pursue some issues in more detail and to more fully understand how the current licensing system affects a variety of different licence holders as follows:

  • Licensing Boards;
  • A small pub in an urban area;
  • Small pubs and a pub/restaurant in a small town in a rural area;
  • An on trade operator with outlets across Scotland;
  • A convenience store operator with outlets across Scotland;
  • A major supermarket operator with outlets across Scotland.


Email: Sacha Rawlence

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