The outcome of the Scottish Parliament election last week has left Scottish licensed retailers with the prospect of a sixth minister in six years responsible for handling licensing reform.
Liberal Democrat George Lyon, the Scottish licensing minister since 2005 failed to be returned in his Argyll and Bute seat last Thursday.
It leaves short-term uncertainty over licensing reform in Scotland, which will culminate with the introduction of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 in September 2009.
Patrick Browne, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: "It is unfortunate that George Lyon failed to be returned to the Scottish Parliament last week, but the voters have spoken."
"The licensed industry in Scotland now faces the prospect of having its sixth minister with responsibility for licensing matters in as many years, with no recent knowledge of the subject and at a very crucial time with the Scottish Parliament meant to be agreeing the detailed regulations which will underpin the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005," he said.
Reforms include guidelines on drinks promotions for the on-trade including ensuring the responsible promotion of alcoholic drinks.
At the moment some guidelines apply only to the on-trade and not to the off-trade leading to Browne calling for a level playing field before the election.
By Christopher Walton