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Alcohol Framework Devastating for Small Retailers

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has reacted with dismay to measures unveiled today in the Scottish Government’s Alcohol Framework. SGF are concerned many of the proposals, primarily targeted at off sales, will have devastating consequences on the ability of small shops to compete with supermarkets and could ultimately result in their closure.

John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF, said;

“SGF is concerned the Government’s framework introduces a number of proposals which will be discriminatory and harmful to the off licence industry and particularly small shops whilst providing no overall strategy to reduce alcohol harm effectively.”

Increase the minimum age to purchase alcohol in off sales to 21 –

“Despite widespread opposition and ridicule to the proposal to increase the minimum age to purchase alcohol in off sales to 21, the Scottish Government intends to give local licensing boards the power to consider raising the minimum age.

“SGF believe this is wrong. The proposal would establish ridiculous anomalies between on and off-sales and will penalise and inconvenience in communities across the country, the majority of under 21’s who drink responsibly.

“It is disappointing the Scottish Government has resorted to the use of a gimmick which will have little effect on the problem of underage drinking, rather than looking at sensible measures including better enforcement of current legislation, use of proof of age schemes and greater support for a nationally recognised proof of age card.”

Promotions and Marketing

“Banning promotions will appear particularly draconian for consumers feeling the effects of an economic slowdown. SGF are concerned measures to limit promotions and marketing of these promotions, intended to curb the activities of the large supermarkets, will have harmful consequences for small retailers across Scotland already reeling from increased licence fees. Many small retailers, unable to compete with supermarkets on price, add value through promotions.

Social Responsibility Fee

“Proposals to introduce a social responsibility fee are punitive and unfair. Applying a new tax to community store retailers during an economic slowdown will undoubtedly result in the closure of small shops.”

Mr Drummond concluded, “SGF are concerned many of the proposals, which could have devastating consequences for small shops, will not receive the level of scrutiny and debate they require if some of the proposals, as suggested in the framework, are introduced as secondary legislation.

“If we want to change Scotland’s complex relationship with alcohol we all have a part to play, however, Scottish Government proposals which place sanctions against retailers without addressing the deep rooted social problems which create many of the alcohol problems in Scotland, are unlikely to succeed.”