Retailers in Scotland fear they may not be able to sell alcohol after September 1 because of delays in the processing of new licensing applications.

The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 requires licensed stores to have a designated premises manager who must be a personal licence holder. Unless the personal licence has been granted, the store will not be permitted to sell alcohol when the new legislation comes into force.

Retailers have been able to apply for the new licences since February 2008 and were urged not to leave it until the last minute to avoid a backlog of late submissions.

However the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) says several of its members are still waiting for personal licences to be processed by regional licensing boards, despite some applications being submitted more than six months ago. 

SGF chief executive John Drummond said: “It appears certain licensing boards have not put in place adequate resources to ensure personal licences are granted in time. The delay in processing personal licences also has ramifications for retailers who intended to use a personal licence holder to train staff.”

Lizette Craig, managing director of Botterills Convenience Stores, told The Herald that the company had begun applying for personal licences more than a year ago, but was still waiting for over half of them.

"We were set very strict deadlines and on the whole I think these were met," she said. " We have some applications that boards have been sitting on for 14 months, and now we have just seven weeks until the law comes into force.

"We have dotted the i's and crossed all the t's but if we don't get our personal licences back soon then we can't get the licence for each store."

It is understood that some licensing boards only recently started handling applications, and that low staffing levels over the summer could further slow down the process. 

The boards say the real problem lies with premises which have yet to make their applications, with Glasgow reporting that as few as 10% of venues have so far applied for the necessary consents. 

In its briefing notes to retailers, the Scottish Government said licensing boards are under no obligation to process applications received after the end of February this year in time to enable trading from September 1.