UP to 1000 staff in pubs, clubs, corner shops and restaurants in Edinburgh are set to be banned from selling alcohol because they have not met training requirements.
Notices are being issued to an estimated 10,000 individuals across Scotland telling them their personal licences to sell alcohol are being revoked.
They will also face a five-year ban before they can reapply and possible criminal prosecution if they are caught selling liquor without a licence.
Industry leaders warned the move could be a major blow to trade at one of the busiest times of year, leaving people unable to do their job and potentially putting them out of work.
The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 – which came into effect in 2009 – introduced a system where anyone managing premises where alcohol is sold must hold a personal licence, which also authorises the sale of liquor by others. The legislation also set down a requirement for licence holders to be fully trained.
Personal licence holders had a deadline of November 30 to provide licensing boards with refresher training certificates to prove they had met the requirements. But despite publicity, thousands across the country have failed to comply on time.
John Lee, of the Scottish Grocers Federation, which represents smaller retailers, accused the Scottish Government of setting harsh penalties in the original legislation.
He said: “Thousands of people could find themselves unable to do their job and potentially out of work over Christmas as a result of having their licences automatically revoked.”
Licensing boards are required to inform police when a licence has been revoked. Police Scotland has said it will target those in the trade without the necessary licences.
Senior lawyer Jack Cummins, who has advised the Scottish Government on licensing policy, said: “Despite warnings from licensing boards and industry leaders, it’s clear that a multitude of licensed trade workers have been sleepwalking towards the dole queue.
“For pubs, clubs and shops suddenly without a premises manager, there are dire consequences ahead – a block on alcohol sales, possible prosecution and a licence review – unless they wake up and seek urgent legal advice.”
The Scottish Government said it was up to local licensing boards “to determine their own procedures in compliance with the laid-down legislation”.
But a spokeswoman added that the government did feel revoking a personal licence for five years “may be excessive” and the issue was being looked at in legislation currently before the Scottish Parliament.