FOOTBALL fans should not be travelling to licensed premises in Argyll and Bute to watch Saturday’s Celtic v Rangers fixture, the chair of the area’s licensing board has said.

Helensburgh and Lomond South Councillor David Kinniburgh also pleaded with residents of the central belt to remain in their own health board area while new Scottish Government restrictions are enforced.

The town was reportedly visited by many people from outwith Argyll and Bute at the weekend, with pubs completely closed across five central belt health board areas.

Argyll and Bute is under the jurisdiction of NHS Highland, which is not one of the five health board areas where pubs have been asked to close. Licensed premises in the area may serve food and non-alcoholic drinks indoors until 6pm, and can serve alcohol outdoors if possible until 10pm.

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Some licensed premises in Helensburgh have decided to temporarily close completely despite being outwith the central belt, but others have remained open.

The Celtic v Rangers fixture, known as the Old Firm game, takes place at 12.30pm on Saturday, October 17, with no supporters allowed inside Celtic Park to watch. In ordinary circumstances, the match attracts many visitors to pubs to watch.

Councillor Kinniburgh said: “Because of restrictions already in place and in view of the latest Scottish Government restrictions I do not think descending on licensed premises to watch the Old Firm fixture or any sporting event is an attractive proposition.

“Under the new measures customers are unable to purchase alcohol for consumption inside licensed premises and since licensed premises have re-opened televisions have had to be muted.

“Because of the restrictions imposed on licensed premises now the bigger challenge is how you prevent individuals gathering in numbers in homes with alcohol purchased from off-sales and other retail outlets.

“I would ask anyone thinking of travelling into Argyll and Bute from the central belt for that purpose to follow the advice and not travel out-with their health board area.”

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When asked if any new guidelines, temporary or permanent, would be introduced in Argyll and Bute after the introduction of the national restrictions, Councillor Kinniburgh said: “No – any guidelines or information issued by our Licensing Standards Officers or Environmental Health Officers will follow Scottish Government regulations in relation to the new measures.”

He added: “Since the curfew announcement for certain areas was made by the Scottish Government I am aware from media reports that some premises out-with curfew affected areas have taken the decision to close because the restrictions imposed on them by the Scottish Government make continued trading unviable.

“This is a matter for individual businesses to consider but I do not think that licensed premises in Argyll and Bute should be considering a blanket temporary closure across the area for the period that the Scottish Government restrictions apply.

“In Argyll and Bute I would expect any licensed premises to comply with the new regulations. However, if any reports were received from Licensing Officers or other authorities of premises breaching the new measures it would be a matter for the Licensing Board to determine what sanctions would be imposed on any offenders at a subsequent meeting of the Licensing Board.”

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