North-east pub owners recommend safety scheme should be ‘mandatory’

Bar owners in the north-east have urged the Scottish Government to make membership of a pub safety scheme a “mandatory requirement” for the sale of alcohol.

The North Aberdeenshire Licensing Forum (NALF) has written to Health Minister Shona Robinson and Justice Minister Michael Matheson, recommending that the government force those managing licensed premises to become members of the Pub Watch scheme.

The nationwide initiative was set up in an effort to make clubs and pubs safer by encouraging owners to work together to eliminate antisocial behaviour – with anyone banned from one member premises in a region being barred from them all.

Supported by police teams across the country, Pub Watch has been hailed as a great success, but Norma Thomson, the convener of the NALF, said that more needed to be done to encourage licensees to join.

Ms Thomson said: “Pub Watch shares best practice with members, as well as information on those individuals who may be set to cause trouble.

“Pub Watch is a scheme which takes community safety seriously and there are real concerns that the demise of the scheme in certain areas will have a detrimental effect on public order around licensed premises.

“To this end, members of the North Aberdeenshire Licensing Forum wish to recommend that membership of Pub Watch should be made a mandatory requirement for managing licensed premises.”

Photograph and story courtesy of Press and Journal

NPW Editors Comment

Pubwatch has always been a voluntary activity, with local schemes run by licensees for their own benefit. Recent legal challenges have focused on how much involvement the Police and other public authorities have in the management and processes of the scheme. If the claimants had succeeded in convincing the High Court that there had been undue influence then they would have opened up the schemes to Human Rights legislation.

Should membership of a scheme became compulsory it might prove difficult to argue that the purpose of a Pubwatch and decisions taken to ban a troublemaker is purely for the benefit of the licensed trade, rather than say the Police or criminal justice system?

We can see the attraction of trying to encourage reluctant licensees to engage in a local Pubwatch scheme but the interference of the State, no matter how well intentioned, could damage the power of the trade to collectively exclude troublemakers and in the long run prove counterproductive.