A NEW trade guide for independent retailers selling alcohol is being produced by the leading industry trade associations - the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) and the Scottish Grocers' Federation (SGF) - in advance of more key changes to licensing legislation taking effect from 1st October 2011.

'The Alcohol Act Explained - A Guide to the Legislation', an important guide to the law for retailers, is being produced by the SWA and SGF in partnership with leading drinks companies Heineken UK, Molson Coors, Diageo, InBev UK, Maxxium UK, Accolade Wines, Whyte & Mackay, Carlsberg and Tennent Caledonian Breweries.

Acknowledged by the Scottish Government, the new guide - a comprehensive reference guide to the licensing legislation governing the sale of alcohol via off-licences in Scotland - is a unique collaboration between the SWA, SGF and leading drinks companies.

Designed to help retailers understand the law and, crucially, promote responsible retailing, it has been presented to the influential Scottish Government Alcohol Industry Partnership with distribution to retailers taking place over the next few weeks, in advance of the new legislation coming into force on 1st October.

Tom Johnston, managing partner of Young & Partners and one of Scotland's most experienced licensing solicitors, is the author of the guide and worked very closely with the nine drinks companies supporting the initiative to ensure that it contains all the relevant information required by retailers to sell and promote alcohol responsibly and within the law.

He explained: "Independent retailers have had to contend with radical changes to licensing legislation over the last few years and while most are now up to speed with the changes which came into force in September 2009, not all are aware that more are on the way.

"For many time-poor retailers, particularly the smaller operators, any type of legislation can be a minefield so the SWA and SGF, fully supported by the drinks industry, have decided to make it as easy as possible for independents to be armed and ready to comply with the new legislation coming into force in the off-trade from 1st October."

From 1st October 2011, under the Alcohol Etc (Scotland) Act 2010, all retailers selling alcohol in Scotland will have to adhere to strict new rules covering alcohol promotions, the advertising of promotions, the position of promotions in-store and pricing.

All retailers selling alcohol will also be required to adopt a 'Challenge 25' policy from 1st October and be aware of the fact that if any staff member sells alcohol to someone under the age of 18, the retailer - as well as the employee - could be prosecuted.

A website - www.AlcoholComplianceScotland.co.uk - is also being launched to enable retailers to download 'Challenge 25' point-of-sale (POS) material and keep abreast of ongoing alcohol legislation. It will be updated on a regular basis to help retailers ensure that they operate responsibly and within the law.

The new guide is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the law. Instead, it is an extremely valuable reference guide for retailers who should keep copies handy to allow them - and their staff - to refer to it at any given time. It is written in an easy-to-understand format and uses a Q&A approach, answering the questions that retailers will most likely want to ask and clearly laying out the 'Dos and Don'ts' in plain English.

The SWA's executive director, Kate Salmon, and John Drummond, chief executive of the SGF, stressed that while the trade associations and their partners in the project fully support the Scottish Government's stance on promoting responsible retailing, encouraging sensible drinking, reducing acts of violence fuelled by excessive drinking and improving Scotland's health, it is crucial that retailers understand what is expected of them.

Salmon said: "No-one is disputing the fact that Scotland has a problem with alcohol but we must be careful not to blame retailers for that problem. The majority of retailers in Scotland are responsible and would never knowingly break the law by selling alcohol to a young person.

"But for a small retail operator running a busy store, adhering to ever-changing legislation can be both time-consuming and costly - and that is why we have decided to produce this new trade guide to Scottish licensing law for retailers. It will be an invaluable tool that will help independents operate responsibly and within the law.

"We are delighted to have been able to work in partnership with our colleagues at the SGF on this project," Salmon added. "This new publication for independent retailers is a prime example of ways in which we hope to further collaborate in the future."

The SGF's John Drummond echoed Salmon's comments. He said: "This publication will provide invaluable assistance to retailers in relation to the Alcohol Act. It provides an easy-to-understand guide to their need to comply with the law from October.

"SGF has been delighted to collaborate with the SWA and the producers involved in the production of the booklet. Most retailers are highly responsible and will welcome the information included in the guide as they strive to come to terms with the new legislation.

"We acknowledge Scotland's drinking problem and believe that, through responsible retailing, convenience stores can become part of the solution."

'The Alcohol Act Explained - A Guide to the Legislation' will be distributed to retailers via the SGF and SWA member wholesalers. Additional copies will be available from the offices of the SWA (0131 556 8753) and SGF (0131 343 3300).