HUNDREDS of pubs, restaurants and shops could be forced to stop selling alcohol across East Lothian if they miss the deadline to apply for new personal licences.
East Lothian Council has sent out more than 300 letters to personal licence holders in the county whose 10-year renewal is due on August 31.
However, the applications to renew must be in before the end of May under Scottish Government legislation, and so far only 39 have applied.
Concern about the renewal policy, which is in its first year of practice after the first 10-year licences were issued in 2009, has been raised by licensed trade representatives who fear the deadline will be missed by many.
The Scottish Government has told personal licence holders whose 10 years are up that if they do not apply by May 31 their licence will expire on September 1 and they will be required to apply for a new one – which could take several weeks to get.
Personal licence holders must also provide a certificate to prove they have undergone refresher training in the last five years.
All licensed premises require a personal licence holder on site to allow them to sell alcohol.
UK Hospitality and the Association of Convenience Stores have urged the Scottish Government to scrap the 10-year renewal and issue personal licences for life – a move which has already taken place in England and Wales.
They claim the renewal process and training requirements are too complicated and fear licensing boards will not be able to process all the applications ahead of their expiration date.
East Lothian Council’s licensing standards officer Rudi Fruzynski revealed that only 39 people had returned applications for renewal out of 300 that had been sent reminder letters.
Speaking during a workshop discussion of members of the East Lothian Licensing Forum, Mr Fruzynski said the low return “highlights the concern of the licensing trade across Scotland”.
The Scottish Government advises licence holders: “The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 came into full effect in September 2009. As such, personal licence holders who first obtained their licence at the introduction of the existing regime need to renew their personal licence for the first time.
“It is strongly recommended that these personal licence holders take action now to undergo training and renew their licence.”
Last year the Scottish Government introduced a £50 fee for renewal applications.
Marie Sharp , Local Democracy Reporting Service