Health bosses are pushing for a ban on any new off-licences bigger than 40 square metres across the Highlands.

The Highlands Licensing Board is consulting on whether there is “overprovision” of alcohol in the region and the NHS wants to limit the number of off-licences.

The Highland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership told the board in its submission that off-trade sales “account increasingly for the vast majority of alcohol sales” and urged for them to be capped. The ban would apply to independent wine merchants, convenience stores and supermarkets.

There are 313 off-trade licences and 899 on-trade licences in the Highlands.

HADP admitted there are no figures to show sales trends in the Highlands. Instead it said that in Scotland, back in 2011, alcohol sales in pubs and bars dropped 30% while they increased 48% in the take-home market.

Based on this evidence, it said it wanted to clamp down on the off-trade.

HADP, which is made up of local NHS, police, prison service and council members, then goes on to quote 2010-11 estimates by Alcohol Focus to argue that “alcohol harm” costs the Highlands £85 million a year, equivalent to £383 per person.

The NHS preferred option is banning any further off-licences bigger than 40 square metres “or such other square meters (sic) as the [licensing board] considers” to tackle “overprovision”.

A second option the board is considering is banning new off-licences in areas where “health harm” – based on the 2010-11 estimates – is above the Scottish average. These are: Caol and Morag; Cromarty Firth; Dingwall and Seaforth; Eilean a’Cheo; Fort William and Archnamurchan; Inverness Central; Inverness Milburn; Inverness Ness-Side; Inverness West; Landward Caithness; Thurso and Wick.