One of Scotland’s biggest convenience store chains has called on the sector to commit to a licensing training programme for staff as part of a “culture change” that will help retailers become more responsible when selling alcohol.

Lizette Craig, managing director of Botterills Convenience Stores, which runs 45 Spar stores in the country, made the rallying call during a hard-hitting presentation at the annual conference of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) last month.

She said: “We are contributing to Scotland’s underage drink culture and we resolve to do something about it. We could blame the Scottish Executive, local councils, the on trade or other retailers. But the reality is that we are all at fault and it is our staff in our stores who are selling alcohol to kids.”

Craig referred to the Lanarkshire-based Spar retailer’s decision to start its own test-purchasing scheme two years ago.

“We had a 40% failure rate and this was a genuine shock to us. We had to get our own house in order - now Spar has its own training programme.

“Botterills has more than 200 staff qualified in licensing matters and we are now a responsible retailer. In a CTP survey, more than 90% of our customers said we were doing everything we could to avoid selling alcohol to underage drinkers - our pass rate is now 98%. But that is still not good enough because the major multiples have 100%.”

She warned retailers that they could lose sales and even staff by taking a hard-line approach, but added “you will not lose your licence”.

She described the whole licensing issue as the “biggest revolution” to affect the independent trade.

The Scottish Parliament voted to approve the Licensing (Scotland) Bill last November. It is designed to reform outdated licensing laws, tackle underage drinking and crack down on Scotland’s binge-drinking culture. New licensing measures, however, will not come fully into effect until autumn 2009.

Meanwhile, several Scottish retailers - including Botterills - have already implemented a policy to ask under 21s for ID.

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