As the Scottish Parliament breaks for the summer recess and the debate surrounding alcohol continues to dominate the political landscape, the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) is urging MSPs to consider alternative pricing mechanisms to minimum pricing.
Labour and the Conservatives voted against minimum pricing, one of the main planks of the Alcohol etc (Scotland) Bill at the Stage 1 debate. The principle role at Stage 2 is for the Health and Sport Committee to consider and dispose of amendments. Stage 2 will commence when MSPs return to Parliament in September. It is at this stage that amendments offering alternatives to minimum pricing are likely to be lodged by the opposition parties.
John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said:
“We understand politicians’ concerns about minimum pricing. Not only would it penalise responsible drinkers but could lead to an increase in cross border and internet shopping which would be particularly damaging for small shops.
“However, if minimum pricing is removed from the Bill and an alternative pricing mechanism is not introduced there will be nothing to stop supermarkets selling a case of beer for as low as £5.00. As well as encouraging and promoting irresponsible drinking it would make it impossible for small shops to compete with the supermarkets which was not the intention of the Bill
“SGF has suggested MSPs consider ending the practice of below cost selling, a form of promotion used by many supermarkets. The UK Government is considering ways to introduce a ban on below cost alcohol. A similar mechanism in Scotland would ensure a level playing field and avoid the unintended consequences that minimum unit pricing would bring.”