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Council / No general extension to licensing hours this festive period

COUNCILLORS have decided against granting the usual extension to licensing hours which would allow pubs to stay open until 2am during the festive period.

Elected members had concerns that granting the an extension would give out the wrong message during the coronavirus pandemic when the matter was discussed at a meeting of the Shetland licensing board on Monday.

The board is asked every year whether it wants to approve the general extension for licensed premise over the festive period.

The licensing extension has been granted since 2009, except for the three years between 2010 and 2012.

The board was told that “in respect of the current year, coronavirus and the public interest in the prevention of its spread present additional factors for consideration”.

A report to members said that statutory guidance issued by the Scottish Government “makes it clear that boards will wish to satisfy themselves that applicants can meet the terms of the sector guidance and legal provisions on coronavirus transmission prevention”.

Councillor George Smith, who was chairing the board meeting after Ian Scott resigned last week, said granting the blanket extension this year would give out the “wrong signal” at this point in the pandemic.

He moved that the extension not be granted, but he noted that licence holders were still able to apply for an extension on an individual basis.

Smith was seconded by North Mainland member Alastair Cooper.

Cooper felt it was best to “play safe” this year and not to “encourage the belief that they can run amok at Christmas”.

He said drinking and socialising gave more scope for the virus being transmitted, with this being a factor in a recent escalation of cases of Covid-19 in Scotland.

Lerwick member Stephen Leask had suggested there could have been merit in the decision being deferred until later in the year, but the board agreed not to grant the extension.