PUBS in North Ayrshire could be forced to close their doors in the coming months unless the Scottish Government update its licensing laws.

Hundreds of pubs across Scotland are under threat of closure next year - putting thousands of jobs at risk - unless urgent action is taken by the Scottish Government.

In order to sell alcohol in pubs and other licensed premises, a Premises Manager requires to hold a personal licence – but with the majority of the 56,000 Personal Licences due to expire on August 31, 2019, local licensing boards are still in the dark about how these will be renewed.

1,677 of these licences were issued by North Ayrshire Licensing Board.

North Ayrshire Licensing Board Convenor, Councillor Ronnie McNicol, said unless immediate action is taken, a significant number of pubs and other premises will close, leading to major job losses.

Councillor McNicol says the Scottish Government must either abolish the current system for the renewal of Personal Licences, or to change the legislation.

He said: “We have reached the tipping point – unless the Scottish Government deals with this issue immediately, we will see pubs and other licensed premises across Scotland closing.

“Those worst affected are likely to be small businesses because it often happens that the business is both owned and managed by one person, so if he or she loses a Personal Licence there might not be an alternative person who can take over the management.

“In spite of repeated warnings from licensing boards such as ourselves, SOLAR (Scottish Local Authority Lawyers & Administrators) and professional organisations representing trade lawyers, the Government has not fixed the problems. It now appears almost certain that many applicants will lose their personal licence on August 31, 2019.”

Almost all premises selling alcohol in Scotland require to have a Premises Manager, who holds a Personal Licence issued by a Licensing Board.

Across Scotland there are over 56,000 Personal Licences with more than 1,600 of these issued by North Ayrshire Licensing Board.

These licences last for a 10-year period and most will expire on August 31 2019.

Licence holders have a window to apply for renewal running from 31 August 2018 to 31 May 2019.

Councillor McNicol believes there are a series of issues which means it is likely that many Personal Licence holders will lose their licence:

* The start of the window for applications is only nine weeks away and the government has still not set any fee for applications. Applicants do not know how much renewal will cost, and until this is clarified, they may be unwilling to apply - by which time it may be too late.

* The massive number of applications which require to be processed – up to 56,000 across Scotland – are likely to swamp local licensing boards.

* The cut-off for people to apply for a renewal is three months before their Licences expire (May 31, 2019). While Licensing Boards will do their upmost to contact licence holders, some will have changed address and it is likely many will not apply until their licence is due for renewal - by which time it is too late

* The immigration status of all applicants now needs to be checked by the Home Office, who appear to have little capacity to deal with this volume of applications. At best, this will cause a significant delay, at worst, applications will not be checked in time for expiry.