MacAskill calls for supermarkets to pay their fair share for alcohol licenses

Kenny MacAskill

Supermarkets should pay more for the right to sell alcohol according to the former justice minister.

Writing in The Herald, Kenny MacAskill said license fees should be determined by how much alcohol outlets sell.

He said that while minimum unit pricing (MUP) is essential, other measures are also needed.

Mr MacAskill writes: “The cost of a licence should reflect sales and consequent harm. It’s ridiculous to have a well-run hotel paying the same price for a liquor licence as a major supermarket retailer.

“A corner shop can sell much more in many ways than the local bar, so why should they pay the same licensing fee?

“The current levy imposed on major outlets by the Scottish Government whilst welcome does not address the underlying issue of volume sold.

“Those who sell the most should pay the most; and the revenues used to address the harm caused.”

Mr MacAskill added that licensing laws should be updated to reflect changes in drinking patterns over the past two decades.

The most recent statistics show that 72 per cent of alcohol sold in Scotland was from off-trade premises, up from 49 per cent in 1994.

His comments were welcomed by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association(SLTA) which argued the current system has proven ineffective.

Chief executive of the SLTA, Paul Waterson, said the fact small pubs must pay the same license fee as supermarkets was unfair.

He said: “It is a very welcome intervention by Kenny MacAskill to say that those with those with the broadest shoulders should pay the most.

“It is obvious that with the supermarkets dominating the alcohol market they should pay far more than any on-trade premises.”

However, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) were highly critical of the proposal, saying its members already pay a wide range of taxes relating to alcohol.

David Martin, SRC spokesman, said the fee system ought to be based on a “cost recovery basis”, adding: “The Scottish government is already in court at the moment over minimum unit pricing.

“It has to be careful about how it uses the licensing system – it should be clear that it is based on cost recovery on the basis of administering that scheme, and not for any other purpose.”

Under the Licensing Act (Scotland) 2005, fees are calculated according to property rateable values and are meant to be cost-neutral – with the amount raised being the same as the administration cost.

But local boards have been accused of using the money gained from licensing to fund other services.

The Scottish government, has, however, moved to make it compulsory for boards to disclose “relevant income” from licensing under the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015.

Share icon
Share this article: