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Evaluation of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005

bar scene
Researchers: Andy MacGregor
Published: May 2013


Over the course of three years, to monitor and closely examine the implementation and compliance of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, which has made significant changes to the regulation of the sale of alcohol in Scotland.


The final report found that the Licensing Act is viewed as having an overall positive impact, and perceptions of it are becoming increasingly positive over time. At baseline the Act provoked a mixed response, and many concerns were raised as to its potential effectiveness. Yet at follow up, the Act was viewed more favourably, and many concerns expressed at baseline had been resolved.

Aspects that were viewed most positively, particularly at follow-up included:

The work of Licensing Standards Officers (LSOs):

The establishment of the LSO role was perceived to be one of the most successful aspects of the Act. LSOs are responsible for supervising compliance and providing mediation for disputes, and often managed to resolve issues without the need for Licensing Boards to become involved.

Reduction of irresponsible promotions:

 At follow-up the consensus was that the Act had impacted favourably on the on-sale sector, and few irresponsible promotions were reported as taking place in pubs and clubs.

Increased powers for Licensing Boards:

The fact that Licensing Boards had the ability to review, revoke and suspend licenses with immediate effect was well-received, as it was thought to be a useful deterrent and an ultimate sanction if an outlet was guilty of poor practice.

Better relationships between Boards/LSOs and trade members/staff:

The improved links between LSOs and trade members in particular were considered to be one of the main positive outcomes of the Act.

The report also identified several areas of implementation where more work is needed. It revealed that the public health objective was not having the expected impact and recommended a clearer definition and more guidance on its implementation.


  • Baseline and follow-up telephone surveys with Licensing Board representatives and LSOs across Scotland.
  • Case study work across five Board areas to gather views of Licensing Boards and Licensing Forums (these include representatives from public health, the general public, police and licensed trade).
  • A validation seminar was convened in 2013.
  • Analysis of national and local alcohol statistics.

Read the final report

Download first interim report

Download second interim report