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Apply for an 'Occasional Licence' - 2016-17

Why important

You need an ‘occasional licence’ if you want to sell alcohol from unlicensed premises in Scotland. According to, 24,800 such licences were granted by local authorities in 2015-16. Two of the three groups eligible to apply are those who hold a premises or personal licence to sell alcohol – i.e. people who will have prior experience of alcohol licensing. The third category is people from voluntary organisations who can apply for events connected with the organisation’s activity. This latter group in particular will benefit from a clear explanation of the application process and the implications of holding (or not) such a licence in connection with an event.

Date of assessment

March 2017


Scottish unitary councils


This task was chosen as the nearest equivalent of the ‘apply for a Temporary Events Notice’ task chosen for councils in the rest of the UK. The occasional licence is narrower in scope than the TEN because it is exclusively about the sale of alcohol. 54% of councils got 3 or 4 stars, with our reviewer commenting that although the sample tested featured the usual ‘mixed bag’, a number of councils ‘absolutely nailed it’ (see our recommendations). The data suggests that licensing information is slightly more discoverable on Scottish sites, perhaps due to the fact that most councils have a separate Licensing, or Law and licensing, section featured on the homepage.


Find your council report

Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2017-18 results

Headline results


Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey

Better connected rankings


*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off

  • 4 stars (Very Good)
  • 3 stars (Good)
  • 2 stars (Unsatisfactory)
  • 1 star (Poor)


Log in to view question set or View sample question set from 2016-17 (pdf)

Task report

Scottish council websites were generally structured in such a way that made the task easier to complete in comparison to the assessment completed on English, Welsh and Northern Irish council websites (apply for Temporary Event Notice). Most councils had a separate Licensing or Law and licensing section on the home page, making it really easy for users to spot what is relevant.

Good practice included councils who gave a summary of what each type of licence was for on a landing page, rather than just stating the licence name itself – many first time applicants might not know that what they are seeking is called an ‘Occasional Licence’. Those that fail to do this risk creating a more complicated user journey for some site users.

Less than a third of sites made it clear that occasional licences can only be obtained by voluntary organisations for events connected with their activities. Just 6% made clear the penalties that may apply where a relevant activity is carried out without an Occasional Licence.Again, it is likely to be first-time applicants that are disadvantaged by missing information.

As with the English task, there was a tendency for some councils to rely on legalese and lift content straight from the legislation, with many sites talking about 'sections' and Acts, which mean nothing to most members of the public. However, other councils had repurposed the content well, translating it into plain English and segmenting it into appropriate subheadings, which make it much easier for readers to scan and find the information they are looking for.

Too many councils missed out basic information, such as cost and notice period. The costs/fees issue was particularly challenging where councils made the user sift through a lengthy fees page or a document which listed all fees for all types of licences. The cost for this licence is straightforward, so why not have it in the copy on the webpage?

A few councils were slightly confusing by stating that the premises itself needs the licence. Whilst this is strictly true, they need to be careful with wording as it may give the impression that the premises owner needs to apply rather than, for example, the voluntary organisation holding the event.

As usual, Better Connected recommends that councils do not rely on documents and PDFs for providing key information, as this makes the task harder for the user. Useful information should always be available as core web content given formal guidelines tend to be officious and lengthy. In short, avoid hiding content in this way.

Sites that we recommend

Aberdeenshire Council
I breezed through this task thanks to well designed and written content. Key information stands out and the right level of details given. It was also easy to get to by both search and navigation

Angus Council
Really well laid out content, well signposted and quick to complete. Excellent for both user journey and task completion.

East Renfrewshire
This was an excellent experience. I could find out all I wanted to know within a couple of minutes and the content is easy to read and structured with clear and appropriate subheads, which really speeds up the user journey. Couldn't easily find contact details but other than this pretty perfect.

Excellent. Really well laid out content so I could scan for what I was looking for extremely quickly. The task if well signposted and it's good to see it grouped under alcohol licences. Have a small niggle as I went a little off track when initially navigating so I recommend a slight but important tweaking of the wording on landing page. The first link you read is Alcohol licence applications and this seems relevant so I don't read the other headers and click on this one but it goes to current applications. Wording to be ever so slightly tweaked to make it clear that this is current applications / register of applications.



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