A DECISION will be made today on whether Scotland will gain its first micropub.

Planning permission for the venture in Kelso, which will hold a maximum of 30 people, has already been granted by Scottish Borders Council and it is expected that the council’s licensing board will give the final go-ahead today.

While micropubs have been springing up in England over the last few years, the concept has been slow to cross the Border but entrepreneurs Debbie and Simon Rutherford believe the idea is about to take off.

Specialising in craft ales and beers, micropubs shun the trappings of modern pubs like gaming machines, television and music. “They offer a real antidote to modern life,” said Simon Rutherford, from Chirnside near Duns. “Micropubs are focused on the experience, and the size and layout encourages conversation, even among strangers.”

Before deciding to open their micropub, the couple researched English examples, including one in nearby Berwick-upon-Tweed.

“Every single one of them was a real pleasure, with a warm welcome and great chat,” he said. “Some micropubs actually ban mobile phones – one of them even nails them to the wall if you’re caught using it. We won’t be as strict as that, but you certainly won’t be able to buy a gassy lager or an alcopop in Rutherfords.”

The Rutherfords aim to start a Scottish Micropub Association for the other premises they hope will open elsewhere in Scotland. “It used to be difficult to get a change of use from a shop to a pub, but the law has been relaxed in a bid to attract more vitality to the high street,” said Debbie.

The first micropub was opened in Kent in 2005 by Martyn Hillier, who coined the name, and since then around 100 have opened in England with new ones opening at the rate of five a week.

It is hoped that the Kelso micropub, planned for a former knitwear shop in the town’s main square, will open in May, selling craft ales from local breweries and other local and craft drinks, including whisky and gin.

Micropubs do not offer hot food but tend to offer small portions of cold plates, Spanish tapas-style.

While Debbie confesses she has never pulled a pint in her life, Simon has family links to brewing and distilling through his father, Alan, who was a lecturer in brewing at Heriot-Watt University and instrumental in the resurrection of a Jura distillery. He has an OBE for his services to whisky.