Relaxation of alcohol licensing restrictions considered

Alcohol licensing restrictions are being discussed as a possible relaxation is considered during coronavirus crisis.

Discussions are taking place in the Scottish Government about a possible relaxation of alcohol licensing restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Constitution secretary Mike Russell revealed talks have been held as he also confirmed MSPs will formally debate the Scottish Government’s framework document looking at how lockdown restrictions can be eased.

By noon on Tuesday, five days after it was launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, 397,000 Scots had viewed the paper.

“That is not a usual reaction to a Government document,” Mr Russell said.

He told MSPs the framework document will be debated in the Scottish Parliament, possibly in two weeks’ time.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser questioned whether this could include a relaxation of licensing laws so customers taking advantage of early supermarket opening hours could buy alcohol – something which currently cannot be sold in shops before 10am.

Mr Russell said the process of selecting the final contents of the new Bill is “still ongoing”, telling MSPs: “I don’t want to commit myself to particular items at this stage.”

He told Mr Fraser, the convener of Holyrood’s new Covid-19 Committee: “I note the point he makes about licensing, he has raised it on a number of occasions.

“I am still in discussions with colleagues about that but I do think it is a point that would have support from a whole range of people.”

Speaking about the Bill, he said it will amend deadlines that can no longer be met as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, for example, giving registered social landlords more time to lodge their accounts with the Scottish Housing Regulator.

The timetable for holding the citizens’ assembly on climate change – something ministers had committed to in legislation updating emissions targets – will be “relaxed”, Mr Russell said.

The Bill will also amend legislation for holding the UEFA European Championship – passed as Glasgow is one of the host cities for the event – to allow for the tournament now being held in 2021.

While he told MSPs there has been a “very high level” of compliance with lockdown restrictions, he said there have been more than 6000 “compliant dispersals” – when people have been asked to move on by police and agreed to do so – since March 28.

This includes 766 on Saturday – with Mr Russell saying while good weather may result in a “temptation to blur the edges of the rules” around lockdown, it is important not to do so.

He said: “It is not yet the time – absolutely not yet the time – to relax for a second our vigilance and our vital obligation to stay at home, protect the NHS and by so doing save lives.”

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