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Scottish Grocers’ Federation Comment on Launch of Scottish Labour Alcohol Commission

Commenting on the range of alternative proposals to be considered by an Alcohol Commission, launched by Scottish Labour today, John Drummond, Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation said,

On a mandatory ‘Challenge 25’ scheme:
“SGF members already run age verification policies in their stores. Responsible retailers know they have to develop a robust sales prevention policy and a comprehensive approach to staff training. They accept that if they fail in their responsibilities they face tough sanctions, but we expect this to be matched by a commitment from politicians, police and communities to support shops in their challenging frontline role.”

On alternative pricing mechanisms:
“We need to see the detail of alternative pricing mechanisms. However, SGF would strongly oppose any plans which grant powers to local authorities to raise local taxes. Inconsistent implementation of the Licensing (Scotland) Act from area to area created additional costs and burdens for small shops at the worst possible time. Exposing retailers to a similar fiasco would be totally unacceptable. If new taxes are to be introduced this must be done at a national level and must be supported by a compelling evidence base.”

Better enforcement of existing legislation:
“Existing licensing laws already put in place a strong structural framework to address alcohol misuse. Until current legislation is fully enforced SGF believes there is little to be gained from creating additional legislation.”

Restrictions on advertising to protect children:
“Retailers should be able to communicate promotions to their adult customers in a responsible manner. For small independent convenience store retailers window bills and promotional leaflets represent the only realistic method of advertising their special offers or promotions whilst large operators can afford radio, national newspapers and TV advertising which are not within the remit of the Scottish Parliament. SGF is concerned restrictions on advertising could have a disproportionate impact on small shops. Any restrictions on advertising material relating to alcohol should apply across all forms of media or not at all.”

On the need for a joint approach on measures that will help to tackle the over-consumption of alcohol John Drummond said,

”SGF would support a closer partnership between the Government, police, local authorities, alcohol retailers and the alcohol industry in order to encourage a collaborative approach to fostering a culture which recognises that responsible, moderate consumption of alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Small Shops Welcome Increase in Small Business Bonus Scheme Thresholds

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has welcomed the announcement made by the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary, John Swinney, during Stage 3 of the Scottish Government Budget on the uplift on the rate relief threshold.

John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said:

“We will need to wait until the new rateable values are released before we can understand the full impact of the new thresholds. However, if the rise reflects any rise in rateable values, the Finance Secretary’s announcement is absolutely the right thing to do.

“The Small Business Bonus Scheme has made a dramatic difference for many small shops during challenging times. The Minister’s announcement, depending on the new rates threshold, will lead to a fairer business rates regime. In the long term this will secure the future of small shops which is good news communities across Scotland.”

On a Post Office diversification scheme Mr Drummond said:
“In many rural and remote locations closure of the post office often leads to the loss of the local shop which has often become the community hub. Any moves to safeguard and boost the network are therefore particularly welcome.”

Grocery Suppliers Code of Practice Welcome

Commenting on the new Grocery Suppliers Code of Practice which came into force today, John Drummond, Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) said,

“The new code of practice will help to prevent supermarkets from abusing their dominant position within the grocery market by outlawing supermarket practises which damage suppliers and stifle competition. Hopefully this measure will also protect the interest of consumers.

“The Code of Practice is welcome. However, without an independent Ombudsman to enforce the Code, SGF fear it will not be affective in stamping out the worst practises of the supermarkets.

“We welcome the support of the Scottish Government Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead MSP, for an Ombudsman and his concern on whether the role will be added to the Office of Fair Trade’s remit. SGF will respond to the UK Government’s consultation on the role of the enforcement body.”

Tobacco Display Ban Decision Damaging for Small Shops

John Drummond, Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has expressed disappointment at the outcome of the tobacco display ban vote.

John Drummond said:

“SGF agrees with the Scottish Government that young people should not smoke and should be actively discouraged from doing so. However, we believe there are better ways of achieving this than banning the display of tobacco in small shops. The evidence that a display ban affects smoking rates is weak.

“Making it an offence for a person under the age of 18 to attempt to purchase tobacco and criminalising the purchase of tobacco by an adult on behalf of a child, sends out a strong message to the public and we believe will assist in creating a culture change.

“We remain convinced the combined effects of these deterrents, together with the increase in the legal age to purchase tobacco from 16 to 18 and effective measures to tackle the illegal trade in communities, would have made the display ban unnecessary.

“It is still unclear from the draft regulations and the Bill how retailers should store tobacco in order to comply with the display ban. However, if Ministers’ preferred solution goes ahead, Scotland will have more restrictive and inflexible regulations than England.

“The technical challenges in fitting a solution to existing units to meet the Ministers’ demands could be extremely challenging and prohibitively expensive for small retailers.

“SGF is concerned a ban is more likely to increase young people’s fascination in tobacco.”

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