This Wednesday, the Wigtown Licensing Forum will meet to discuss if there is evidence of alcohol over-provision in Galloway.
To assess the possibility of over-provision and to take account of the breadth of the problems relating to alcohol in Dumfries and Galloway, the multi-agency Alcohol Licensing Information Group was set up.
The group studied information from the NHS, police, fire and rescue service, council and the alcohol and drugs partnership. Examining specific areas throughout the Dumfries and Galloway region, they took account of the number of on-licensed premises, sales at off-licensed premises, alcohol-related hospital admissions from April 2009 to March 2012, alcohol related police incidents, including road traffic accidents from June 2010 to May 2012 and alcohol related crimes or road offences from June 2010 to May 2012. Having collated all the data, one area in Galloway stood out as falling into the ‘over provision’ category - Stranraer Central. Under the criteria used, the Stranraer Central area significantly exceeds the Dumfries and Galloway average on all the measures of alcohol provision and alcohol related harm. The Stranraer West area is significantly above the D&G rates for all three measures of alcohol related harm and Cree Valley is significantly higher for two out of the five harm measures.
The Wigtown Licensing Forum will have to decide whether or not to go with the recommendations to agree that, in the Stranraer Central area, no new applications for either on-licensed premises or off-licensed sales would be approved and if a revoked or surrendered license would cease to have effect.
As the information provided to the licensing forum by the information group would suggest there are only over-provision problems in Wigtownshire and Nithsdale, the recommendation is to dissolve the four divisional licensing boards and, in future, regulate alcohol and gambling licensing through a single board for the whole of Dumfries and Galloway.
Statistics show that although alcohol-related hospital admissions in Dumfries and Galloway have been very similar to that for Scotland, with both rates show substantial increases from the late 1990s. But in the three-year period between 2007 and 2009 the rate for Dumfries and Galloway is, statistically, significantly greater than that for Scotland as a whole.
The increase in hospital admissions is mirrored by an increase in alcohol sales - especially in supermarkets. Across Scotland the amount of alcohol sold in off-sales outlets has increased from 61 per cent to 68 per cent from 2005 to 2009.