Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 8th February 2007.

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Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative 11:40 am, 8th February 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has any plans to amend the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 to regulate the off-sales sector. (S2O-11931)

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 is a major step forward for the licensed trade, and the changes that are being introduced are being welcomed by responsible operators.

As the member will be aware, the Executive has commissioned a study to examine the relationship between off-sales and the social impacts of irresponsible drinking. The findings will be published shortly, and we will then consider carefully whether any further measures should be applied under the 2005 act. As the member will also be aware, we have consulted on the option of allowing licensing boards to require off-sales to have separate display areas for alcohol. We are presently considering the outcome of that consultation.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

I welcome the minister's answer as, after the farce of passing the Licensing (Scotland) Bill, it is about time that the Executive did something. As long as it is constructive, I welcome it. The minister will recall that, some years ago, I discussed with Mary Mulligan in the chamber the application of a proof-of-age card scheme throughout Scotland. That is what the Scottish Grocers Federation and responsible retailers are seeking. What will the Executive do about that aspect of responsible retailing?

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

As the member will be aware, a pilot project on test purchasing was undertaken in Fife, and a report was commissioned on its success or otherwise. I am pleased to say that the findings were that the project was very successful. Ministers are currently considering whether to roll that project out across the rest of Scotland.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

On that point, given the success of the scheme in flushing out off-licences that are prepared to sell drink to under-age children, will the minister consider running a similar scheme in the Highlands and Islands where, as he well knows, under-age drinking is as much a problem as it is in the rest of Scotland?

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

As I said, we are considering rolling out test purchasing throughout Scotland. That requires a proof-of-age scheme. Retailers are required to ask for one of the specified types of proof of age when they have doubts about the age of an individual who tries to purchase alcohol.

The pilot has been a success and I look forward to rolling out test purchasing throughout Scotland once ministers have reached a final decision on the matter.