Shops face £12m bill for Act

Scottish retailers will pay an average of £2,000 to comply with new law

Scottish retailers will face

major "disruption and average costs of £2,000 each" to designate

alcohol areas in their shops, a top trade figure has warned.

Shop owners are required, under Scotland's licensing law changes, to specify one alcohol display area when they apply for their new personal and premises licences.

Alcohol displays may have to be re-organised as a result, according to Scottish Grocers' Federation chief executive John Drummond.

"The biggest problem is if there's a designated chiller given to alcohol which may not be in part of what the retailer thinks of as his alcohol area right now. This would mean having to integrate the chiller into the alcohol area," he said.

With more than 6,000 off-licences in Scotland, the total cost of re-organising shops and preparing floorplans could exceed £12 million.

Drinks shop owners will also be forced to shoulder the financial costs of training multiple personal licence holders to comply with the new laws. Drummond estimated that the SGF's convenience store members would also have to pay around £300 each for extra training.

He said: "The Act says there is no need for a personal licence holder to be on the premises at all times. But police, through the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, have said if any incidents are reported and they find no personal licence holder on the premises th en there will be trouble."

Drummond has also criticised the power

the new regulations give licensing boards, with some making "outrageous demands on retailers" .

Some boards "have said retailers need partitions built and a separate alcohol department created in store," he said.

"What actually needs to happen is all the alcohol should be grouped together on the same shelves. We need to make sure there's consistency of approach on this issue."

Scottish retailers will have from Feb 1 next year to apply for their new personal and premises licences and, unlike England and Wales, there will be no grandfather rights, or automatic transferral of licence conditions.

The transition

to the new licensing ­system in Scotland will take 19 months, but cut-off dates for applications will be staggered by expiry date in an effort to avoid the chaos that licensing change caused to English and Welsh authorities in 2005.

The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 will come into force at 5am on Sept 1 2009.

Don't miss the deadline for licence applications

Retailers can apply for new licences from Feb 1 2008, regardless of when their licence expires.

There will be four last lodging dates for applications, according to the quarter in which the licence is due to expire:

Expiry by March 1 2008, apply by March 7

Expiry by June 1, apply by June 6

Expiry by Oct 1, apply by Oct 3

Expiry by Jan 1 2009, apply by Jan 9

Sept 1 2009 - all new licences come into effect.