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Bottleneck for the Licensing Trade

Since 1 September 2009, as a result of the coming into force of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, sales of alcohol are only legal in Scotland if carried out from a licensed premises and if authorised generally or specifically by a Personal Licence Holder (PHL).  While Premises Licences could run indefinitely, Personal Licenses are conditional on the PHL undergoing refresher training every 5 years and must be renewed every 10 years. 

With an estimated 30,000 plus Personal Licences falling to be renewed by 1 September 2019, and only a 9 month window for applications for renewal to be made and processed by the licensing boards, there is clearly a bottleneck in the system which could result in many PHL’s losing their Personal Licenses despite making a timely application for renewal.  Applications for renewal must be made no later than 3 months prior to the date on which the Personal Licence is due to expire, which for most will be 31 May 2019, and must be accompanied by an appropriate training certificate from an approved provider.

The law gives the licensing boards no discretion to extend the application deadline and makes no provision for licenses to continue beyond their expiry date, even if the failure to renew rests with the licensing board or a shortage of training places, rather than the PHLs. The Scottish Government has so far refused to put in place contingency legislation to deal with an overloaded system and, while this may yet come, it would be prudent not to rely on it.

If a PHL’s licence is not renewed by its expiry date, it will expire and they would need to apply for a new licence, which could take weeks or even months to be processed.  If the PHL is also the named premises manager on a Premises Licence, then the holder of the Premises Licence has only 7 days in which to notify the licensing board and trigger a 6 week window in which they must appoint a new PHL with a valid Personal Licence as the premises manager.  If notification is not given within 7 days or no new premises manager appointed within the 6 week window, then alcohol sales will be illegal and must cease until a new premises manager is appointed.

So, if your business depends on a PHL whose licence is due to expire on 31 August 2019, we strongly advise you to act now.  In order to renew, the PHL must:-

  • Complete an accredited training course (please check with your licensing board as to whether a refresher or full course will be required as the requirements appear to differ between boards)
  • Complete and submit the Personal Licence application form (along with the training certificate) to the Board which originally issued the Personal Licence (even if you are working in a different area)
  • Pay the £50 renewal fee

There will be high demand for training places, so booking early is recommended.  Applications should then be submitted as soon as the training certificate is available and as early as possible before the 31 May 2019 deadline to avoid getting caught up in a backlog of applications.

If you would like to find out more then please contact Helen McGrath at or on 0131 226 8224. Helen is a Senior Associate at MBM Commercial specialising in Commercial Property.

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