A licensing chief has warned Scottish pub and c club jobs are still at risk in a rumbling red tape row.

North Ayrshire’s Ronnie McNicol earlier this summer warned of bureaucratic problems for thousands of publicans over the next year.

The independent councillor said industry needed clarity over the terms of new personal licences which practically everybody who manages a business servicing alcohol would have to renew within the next year.

Since his intervention the Scottish government has issued new advice. But Mr McNicol yesterday described this as “utterly inadequate”.

Around 56,000 people will this month be able to begin a licence renewal process – and associated training – that ends on August 31, 2019. But councils do not even know how much to charge for the process.

Mr McNicol said: “It is simply unacceptable that here we are, just a few weeks before the application process open on August 31, and we’re still none the wiser on so many key elements. There have been nine years to sort this out and it goes from bad to worse.

“We still don’t know what the fee for renewal is, there are big question marks over the training – which will be out of date – and confusion over the immigration status of some applicants.

“Despite the best efforts of Licensing Boards across the country, the advice being offered by the Scottish Government is utterly inadequate and fails to address our very real concerns over the future of thousands of jobs in the licensing sector.”

Mr McNicol said licence holders were being told to take training that has not been updated, including on immigration issues under new UK Government rules. The councillor said a proposed fee of £50 for renewal would not cover the cost of paperwork councils would have to do. The sum, he said, would “totally inadequate”.

English authorities have decided not go through a renewal process. because their staff will not have the paperwork they need to work.

Lawyers, council officials and representatives of Scotland’s licensed trade itself in June all told The Herald they believe many pubs and clubs will have to shut next year because their staff will not have the paperwork they need to work.Their concerns come nearly a decade in to a new licensing regime for managers – initially widely welcomed as a way of raising industry standard – which has already brought what insiders call two regulatory “meltdowns”.

The licensed trade is still reeling from recent tougher drink-drive laws and a round of business rates hikes. Crucially, Scots are drinking less with alcohol consumption down nine per cent since 2009. The Scottish Government had no comment.

HeraldScotland | Crime & Courts

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