Licensing in Scotland

Miller Samuel Hill Brown Solicitors

'Exceptional' specialist licensing firm Miller Samuel Hill Brown Solicitors has traditionally acted for large-scale on-trade companies such as major brewers and late-night operators but in recent years, the 'committed and very responsive' team has also been increasingly active in the pub and restaurant on-trade sector as well as in the high-street food retailer market, handling the full spectrum of licensing work including contentious applications. 'Thorough and knowledgeable' team head Audrey Junner specialises in liquor, civic and gambling licensing work, while the highly regarded Jack Cummins has supermarket work at his core and is noted for his 'great common sense approach'.

Practice head(s):

Audrey Junner

Other key lawyers:

Jack Cummins; Peter Lawson


Their accuracy, efficiency, competence and knowledge cannot be bettered in Scotland.

Second to none.

Audrey Junner is an exceptional practitioner with an ever growing wealth of experience.

Excellent in all respects.

Demonstrates strong industry knowledge and always offers sound advice.

Jack Cummins has a great network and good contacts within the industry.

The team works well together.

Key clients

Tesco Stores

Co-operative Group Food

Nandos Chickenland

Motor Fuel Group


Stonegate Pub Company

Mitchells & Butlers Retail

Clydeside Initiative for Arts

Select Service Partner

Work highlights

  • Involved in two new bar and restaurant openings for Mitchells & Butlers Retail in Aberdeen, All Bar One and Miller & Carter, which included assistance with provisional licence applications, addressing all representations and objections and board hearings; both applications were granted.
  • Advised Scottish Historic Buildings Trust on licensing a learning and cultural centre situated within a building of significant historical importance, and a separate catering operation.
  • Provided licensing advice to Co-operative Group Food as part of its acquisition and launch of various new stores across Scotland.
  • Assisted Tony Macaroni and Nardini’s with the premises licence application for an existing café/ restaurant in St Andrews which had attracted various objections due to local residents concerns.
  • Handling all licensing matters for BrewDog’s new micro-brewery development in Glasgow’s East End.


TLT is 'very well known in the Scottish licensing market' and demonstrates particular expertise in the alcohol, taxi and gambling licensing sectors. The team acts for national operators and local enterprises and is led by Stephen McGowan, who is a frequently recommended specialist in liquor licensing. Other key members include the 'highly regardedCaroline Loudon, who is particularly well versed in handling gambling and contentious licensing applications, and 'very good all-rounder' and legal director Niall Hassard.

Practice head(s):

Stephen McGowan

Other key lawyers:

Caroline Loudon; Niall Hassard


Has a unique understanding of licensing board policy and personnel across the Scottish market.

Caroline Loudon’s knowledge of the subject matter and relationships with influences across the sector is unparalleled.

‘Industry-leading team of licensing law specialists. They have a strong voice in the industry, with great connections to decision-makers and stakeholders at all levels.’

‘Market leaders, exceptionally knowledgeable and well respected.’

‘Collaborative, open and straightforward. Clear and responsive communication throughout the licence application process, including where last minute changes were required.’

‘They remain approachable at all times and fully understand the commercial reality of operating a licensed business. They continue to help find ways to maximise commercial opportunities.’

‘Niall Hassard is on top of his brief, offers excellent advice and delivers well for his clients.’

‘Caroline Loudon has strong industry knowledge and provided us with confidence that our application would be handled sensibly and with a pragmatic commercially relevant approach.’

Key clients

Celtic FC

Signature Pub Group


SSE Hydro

Iceland Foods

Rangers FC

Greene King

Elior UK

CJ Lang


Work highlights

  • Assisted Celtic FC and Rangers FC with the licensing of fan zones.
  • Assisted jazz club The Blue Arrow with the application to vary its licence to extend its trading hours to 3am.
  • Assisted Edinburgh Woollen Mill with multiple licence applications following the restrictive nature of existing premises licences.
  • Represented MMM Retail in a hearing for a provisional premises licence concerning a convenience store with a large alcohol display operating under the Nisa Local brand.
  • Supported John Codona in negotiations with the Gambling Commission concerning the operation of a betting shop.

Brunton Miller

Brunton Miller's 'very strong' team is recognised for its broad client base and its equally broad offering, handling the full spectrum of contentious and non-contentious licensing work. The 'highly experiencedArchie MacIver is the main contact.

Practice head(s):

Archie MacIver

Other key lawyers:

Frank Collins

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser's client roster consists of a wide range of public and private sector clients, most notably from the hospitality and food and drink industries. The team led by David Hossack is frequently involved in licensing procedures concerning hotels and visitor centres and has particular expertise in liquor licensing.

Practice head(s):

David Hossack

Other key lawyers:

Douglas Milne; Susan Leslie


‘The Licensing team at Morton Fraser fully understands the sector and knows the Scottish licensing authorities and their approach to matters, so is able to give realistic, commercial, sector-focused advice’.

‘Morton Fraser have supported the School with licensing matters for many years, usually in relation to licensed premises at Myreside Pavilion. The firm has long experience of dealing with the School and has built up a good knowledge of our business and issues’.

‘David Hossack, Partner, is outstanding and has been our main point of contact for longer than I have been Bursar at Watson’s (16 years). Excellent all-round knowledge and advice, easily accessible and always helpful and supportive’.

‘David Hossack stands out as a commercial and knowledgeable lawyer who understands the demands of our business and is always available when urgent advice is needed’.

‘David Hossack – very efficient and knows his way around the legal minefield’.

‘Licensing in Scotland is practiced by very few. This team is the standout. We refer all our English clients to them’.

Key clients

Historic Environment Scotland

Diageo Scotland

The City of Edinburgh Council

Accor Hotels UK

Travelodge Hotels

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

Security Industry Authority (SiA)

Scottish Canals

Continuum Group

Edinburgh Beer Factory

Work highlights

  • Representing The City of Edinburgh Council in all appeals against its licensing decisions; this includes alcohol licences as well as decisions taken under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
  • Representing Travelodge in all licensing work in Scotland.
  • Advising Diageo on an ongoing basis on a wide range of licensing issues; recently, the team assisted Diageo with an application to the Argyll and Bute Licensing Board to change the terms of the licence for the distillery visitor centre in Oban.
  • Assisted Diageo with a variation of premises licence for its distillery visitors’ centre near Inverness to respond to local tourism needs.
  • Advising Accor Hotels UK on all its licensing work across Scotland.

Pinsent Masons LLP

Pinsent Masons LLP's broad licensing offering includes assistance with liquor, gambling and civic government licensing matters and attracts clients from various industries such as hospitality, leisure and tourism. As well as its advisory capacities, the team also benefits from its strong litigation background when representing clients at licensing board and court hearings, while it is able to call on colleagues from its real estate, restructuring and corporate departments when advising on matters at this interface. 'Highly regarded' legal director Audrey Ferrie heads the team.

Practice head(s):

Audrey Ferrie

Key clients


Taco Time

Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC)

Royal Yacht Enterprises

YO! Sushi


Azzurri Restaurants

Work highlights

  • Acted for Royal Yacht Enterprises in a highly contentious application for a new premises licence for a luxury boutique hotel in Leith.
  • Assisted Edinburgh International Conference Centre with the application of a major variation of its premises licence to allow it to serve alcohol until 3am.
  • Advised Byron Hamburgers on the transfer of liquor licences for sites in Aberdeen and Glasgow to incoming operators following the client entering into a Company Voluntary Arrangement and the subsequent closure of several stores.
  • Advised Clydeside Restaurants on various contentious and non-contentious licensing matters pertaining to the acquisition of restaurant premises in the city centre of Glasgow.
  • Acted for Alderforce in an application for a late hours catering licence for a new KFC Restaurant in Glasgow.

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern routinely assists local authorities, retail companies, restaurants and education sector bodies with various licensing matters throughout Scotland, including various alternations concerning late hours licences; local authorities also receive support with licensing appeals in the Sheriff Court and Court of Session. Commercial litigator Jonathan Guy is the main contact.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Guy

Key clients

Scottish Midland Co-operative Society

Midlothian Licensing Board and Licensing Committee

National Trust for Scotland

Edinburgh Napier University

Edinburgh College

McDonald’s Restaurants


Fife Council

West Lothian Council


Work highlights

  • Instructed by McDonald’s, through Shoosmiths, to lodge a variation application to its late hours catering license for its Princes Street restaurant, Edinburgh, to allow an extra hour trading during the festival period.
  • Represented The City of Edinburgh Council in a highly contentious matter with an appellant following the decision to suspend his taxi licence.
  • Acts for Scotmid in all licensing matters for all its Scottish stores; in 2018, the team dealt with over 100 minor applications including variation applications for both change of manager and layout.
  • Instructed by Straub Food to deal with the variation of a late hours catering licence for one of its town centre restaurants to increase the trading hours to 24 hours.
  • Instructed by McDonald’s Restaurants to apply for a late hours catering licence to allow 24/7 trading at a new restaurant in the Port Glasgow.

BTO Solicitors LLP

BTO Solicitors LLP handles contentious new licence applications, major and minor licence variation applications, personal licence applications and licence review hearings, among others, as stand-alone matters or part of wider transactional instructions. Handling work for hotels, pubs, clubs and restaurants counts as particular area of expertise for Nicolas McBride's team.

Practice head(s):

Nicolas McBridge

Other key lawyers:

Jane Steel; Graeme Kelly

Key clients

Bay Hotels

Coast & Country Hotels

Lloyds Banking Group

Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK)

Crieff Hydro

Viva Brazil


Kimble’s Chocolates

Calmont Developments

AK Investments (Scotland)

Work highlights

  • Handling various liquor licensing aspects and a premises transfer application as part of Jewel Trustees’ sale of a major hotel in Scotland.
  • Assisting Gourmet Burger Kitchen with an application for a new pavement licence (and related roads consent) for outdoor on-street drinking areas.
  • Acting for Glasgow-based delicatessen operator Treffiano in an application for a new premises licence for the sale of alcohol from deli premises.
  • Undertaking all licensing work for Bay Hotels, including the transfer of a premises licence.
  • Handling all licensing work for Coast & Country Hotels.

Burness Paull LLP

Burness Paull LLP's strength lies in providing liquor, premises and public entertainment licensing assistance, including contentious matters, to restaurants and hotels. Planning expert Theresa Hunt is the main contact.

Practice head(s):

Theresa Hunt

Key clients

Carlton Clubs

Welcome Break Group

Cairn Hotel Group/ Station Hotel

Aberdeen Douglas Hotel

Hard Rock Café (UK)

Eden Valley Leisure

Splendid Hospitality

The Chester Hotel

Unionrow Restaurant

Work highlights

  • Submitted an application to Fife Licensing Board for a variation of the premises licence to create a temporary bingo hall at Fife Leisure Park, Dunfermline for Carlton Clubs.
  • Obtained a provisional premises licence for Welcome Break Group’s new Ramada Hotel at The Plaza Tower, East Kilbride.
  • Acted for Cairn Group to obtain a major variation of its premises licence for the former Queensferry Hotel, Edinburgh, which has undergone a £15m refurbishment and rebranding to DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh.
  • Acted for RKM Group to obtain a series of occasional licences for a trial period for an outdoor seating and drinking area at the premises in Aberdeen.
  • Advising Hard Rock Café on licensing matters pertaining to its premises in Glasgow.

Harper Macleod LLP

Harper Macleod LLP has been particularly active assisting fuel distributors with various licensing matters but also receives regular instructions from food, leisure and hospitality sector players who require assistance with contentious and non-contentious alcohol, gambling, public entertainment and civic government licensing matters. Team head Andrew Hunter is noted for his expertise in insolvency-related licensing matters.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Hunter

Key clients

Lidl UK

Greene King Brewing and Retailing

Certas Energy UK


Malthurst Retail Group


William Hill Organization

Shell UK

Comic Enterprises

Work highlights

  • Assisted BP Oil UK with the provisional premises licences for two petrol stations within the Perth and Kinross Licensing Board area.
  • Assisted Lidl UK with the application for a provisional premises licence for the new Lidl supermarket at Castle Street, Dumbarton.
  • Assistance with the application for a premises licence for Shell’s premises in Newtonloan, Midlothian.
  • Represented Greene King Brewing and Retailing in a licensing hearing following its non-compliance with the Weights and Measures legislation.
  • Assisted Malthurst Petroleum with the application for a late hours catering licence for the Greshop filling station in Forres.

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Shepherd and Wedderburn is well equipped to guide clients, most notably supermarket chains, restaurants and hotels, through various liquor, gaming, public entertainment and civic government licensing procedures including contentious ones, insolvency-related licence transfers and transactional licensing matters. Hugh Smith and litigator Elaine Brailsford are the main contacts.

Practice head(s):

Hugh Smith; Elaine Brailsford


‘Very ‘can-do’ team and strong communicators. They adapt cases to individual requirements and are supportive throughout, giving strong advice’.

‘Eager to support, speedy responses and clarity of communications’.

Key clients

Sainsbury’s Supermarkets

Dakota Hotels

Balmoral Hotel

SMG Europe

Crerar Hotel Group

Dobbies Garden Centres

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Turnberry Hotel

Fraser Suites

M D Milne

Work highlights

  • Assisted Sainsbury’s Supermarkets in achieving a one-third increase in the size of the permitted off-sales alcohol display area for a city-centre Edinburgh store, despite the premises being in an overprovision area.
  • Following the refurbishment of the Balmoral Hotel, the team assisted the client in obtaining a major variation to the premises licence to take account of the refurbishment, including changing the terms of access for children and young persons and securing an increase in capacity for the refurbished areas.
  • Advised SMG Europe on securing licences for the new Aberdeen event complex/exhibition and conference centre, including a provisional premises licence, a theatre licence and a market operator’s licence.
  • Secured two major variations for Dobbies Garden Centres in Perth and Dundee, adding permission for off-sales and amend the terms upon which under 18s are permitted to access the store and restaurant.
  • Assisting Sainsbury’s with various premises licensing matters arising from the client’s acquisition of new sites.