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Ensuring a sustainable and prosperous convenience industry in Scotland

SGF Writes to EU Commission on Plain Packaging

To: Ambassador Fernando Nelli Feroci, EU Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship.

Dear Ambassador,

       The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products        

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation is the national trade association for convenience store retailers in Scotland. I am writing to you to express our grave concern about the recent technical notification submitted by the United Kingdom government in respect of the draft regulations on the standardised packaging of tobacco products.

Notification Number: 2014/427/UK

Date received: 29/08/2014

End of Standstill: 02/12/2014

In the sections relating to offences and enforcement (ss20-23) the draft regulations indicate that terms of imprisonment ranging between three months and two years could be applied to retailers who are found to have committed offences under the regulations.

In our view these criminal penalties are extremely harsh and completely lacking in balance and proportionality. As you may be aware the draft regulations if implemented would apply to all the regions of the United Kingdom including Scotland. However, we have another serious concern that the regulations as drafted do not take into account Scotland’s unique and entirely separate judicial system. In Scotland we would expect to see a range of civil rather than criminal penalties applied to retailers who infringe such regulations. Put simply we cannot support any measures to imprison retailers for offences in relation to plain packaging.

The Commission should be aware that the UK government has submitted the technical notification before its own consultation process on these regulations has been fully completed. The UK government is still analysing the submissions made to the consultation and has, as yet, published no response or analysis of the submissions.  There is a real danger that these regulations will be proceeded with without the changes or amendments required to effectively address the concerns of stakeholders in the United Kingdom.

We would ask that you raise these concerns with the UK government and seek assurance from them that that they will not proceed with these regulations without fully considering the submission made by stakeholders to the UK Department of Health consultation. Additionally the Department of Health’s own Impact Assessment received only an ‘Amber’ rating from the Regulatory Policy Committee – this means that important issues have to be addressed before the Impact Assessment can be considered fit for purpose. The UK government should indicate clearly when and how the required changes will be made.

I thank you in anticipation of your response to these, which are of genuine concern to retailers in Scotland.

Yours faithfully

John Lee

Policy and Public Affairs Manager

8th September 2014