‘Our licensing laws are often ridiculous’

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it is easy to feel a bit of sympathy for Gyle Centre bosses who have come under fire for offering free booze to students.

The old stereotype of undergraduates who spend all their time in the pub still persists, even though for most students these days a lack of grants or part-time jobs mean that sort of lifestyle is a thing of the past.

And, let’s face it, who wouldn’t be driven to cheap drink by the prospect of £,000 a year fees, such as English students face if they want to study at Edinburgh or Heriot-Watt?

So the offer of a top prize of a drink every day for a year must have seemed like a winner as managers thought of ways to attract a younger crowd to the Gyle’s shops.

Unfortunately, the competition not only flew in the face of campaigns for responsible drinking, it also possibly contravened the city’s licensing laws – but it is little wonder those at the Gyle didn’t realise this.

Frankly, our licensing rules are ridiculously confusing. Sometimes this is caused by genuine attempts to curtail problem boozing, such as the national scheme under which retailers insist on proof that purchasers are 25 years old, even though the law only demands they be 18.

But other quirks are simply baffling. Why, for instance, does the law not allow adults to buy a bottle of wine if they do their grocery shopping on a Saturday morning?

And why, as we reported on Monday, under local rules can’t Hibs serve drinks to hospitality guests before 12.30pm ahead of Sunday kick-offs, and yet Hearts can?

No wonder drinkers and retailers are often confused – to say nothing of shopping centre bosses simply looking to drum up a bit of business.

The Gyle was right to pull the prize, incidentally – and we suspect today’s students will be more grateful for the £300 shopping voucher now on offer instead.

Footfall figures

academics often talk about “bikini statistics” – figures where what is hidden is actually more interesting than what is revealed.

The latest footfall figures for the city centre fall into that category.

The top line is an encouraging one, that the number of people in town in August was up 8.7 per cent this year compared with last year.

But businesses warn that this did not always mean an increase in sales, and indeed the closure of the Assembly Rooms is being blamed for a massive fall of more than a third in footfall in George Street.

Everyone hopes this was a one-off blip – but it shows how a single issue can have potentially devastating effects in a fragile economy.