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Alcohol Bill Must be Put on Hold

SGF (Scottish Grocers’ Federation) believes plans for new legislation on alcohol, outlined by the First Minister, Alex Salmond MSP, in his statement on the Scottish Government’s Programme for the year ahead, should be put on hold following the recent chaos surrounding the full implementation of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005.

SGF Chief Executive John Drummond said:

“The convenience store sector in Scotland invested millions of pounds to ensure they complied with the regulations included in the new Act. However, retailers are still waiting for licensing boards to issue personal and premises licences despite some applications being made as far back as April 2008.

“It has been apparent for some months that many licensing boards where in disarray over the issuing of licences and policy relating to off trade promotions. Requests made by SGF for the Scottish Government to intervene and end major uncertainty by issuing unambiguous guidelines to the Boards were steadfastly refused, adding to the turmoil.

“We are all aware that Scotland has a complex relationship with alcohol which must change. We are committed to working with the Scottish Government to achieve this, however, the First Minister must allow time for businesses to adjust to the new licensing regime before introducing further changes which we believe are unfair and unworkable and will increase the burden of regulation and costs for legitimate responsible businesses.”

Licensing Chaos as Deadline Approaches

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) is demanding the Scottish Government intervenes as delays in processing licences as well as inconsistent interpretation of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 by licensing boards threatens to cause unforeseen disruption to retailers.

John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said,

“Retailers are anxious and annoyed that with less than a week until the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 is fully implemented delays in processing licences by the boards mean many are still waiting for personal and premises licences, some of which were applied for as far back as 2008.

“Through no fault of their own retailers face the possibility of trading illegally on the 1st September which is completely unacceptable. With little or no guidance being issued by the licensing boards, retailers can only hope Licensing Standards Officers will take a common sense approach to enforcement in the coming months.

“In addition inconsistent interpretation of the Act threatens to cause severe disruption to retailers as certain local authorities consider prohibiting some off-trade promotions. Government guidance issued to licensing boards in 2007 suggests this type of promotional activity was never intended to be prohibited through off-sales.

“Measures to end “irresponsible promotions” should be coordinated with the Scottish Government’s other plans to be published in a new alcohol bill due out later this year. In the interests of businesses and consumers there must be a moratorium on further restrictions until the outcome of the new Bill is known.

“If the Scottish Government’s claims to be the friend of small businesses are true, they must step in and issue clear and unambiguous guidance to local licensing boards immediately.”

SGF Urge Retailers to Rally Against a Tobacco Display Ban in Scotland

As MSPs return to the Scottish Parliament after the summer recess SGF is urging retailers to make their MSPs aware of their concerns about the impact a display ban will have on their business.

Stage 1 of the Tobacco and Primary Medical Service (Scotland) Bill, which includes measures to ban the display of tobacco, must be debated by the end of September.

John Drummond, Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) said,

“SGF has opposed a display ban from the start and has worked hard to ensure MSPs are aware of the industry’s opposition to a display ban. However, as MSPs begin to debate the Bill we need retailers to tell their MSPs the impact it will have on their businesses in terms of the significant cost to retailers despite there being no compelling evidence that a display ban would reduce youth smoking rates.

“Time is running out on this issue and I would urge everyone to get involved. Only by showing that the whole sector is against the tobacco display ban will we have a chance of defeating this measure.”

SGF is co-ordinating a letter writing campaign to encourage retailers to lobby their MSPs. The letter, plus details on how to contact your MSPs are available on the SGF website. www.scottishshop.org.uk.

SGF to represent retailers at Holyrood Smoking Conference

Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF), CEO, John Drummond will outline the reasons behind the retail sector’s opposition to measures included in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood’s Smoking Conference to be held on the 23rd September 2009.

SGF has strongly opposed the Scottish Government’s proposals to introduce a tobacco display ban which SGF has estimated will cost a typical convenience store in the region of £5,000 to £10,000 just to modify their store.

John Drummond said:

”SGF has repeatedly expressed our concern at the lack of compelling evidence to support the introduction of a tobacco display ban.

“If implemented a display ban will lead to considerable costs and disruption for retailers already struggling with the economic downturn and is founded on an immature argument that tobacco displays are the primary reason young people take up smoking.

“I welcome the opportunity to represent retailers at the Holyrood Magazine Conference and to identify some of the measures we believe could really make a difference to reducing levels of youth smoking if adequately resourced by the Scottish Government.”
ENDS
For further information please contact Katie Mackie 0131 343 3300 or 07912 308583

For full conference details please visit www.holyrood.com/tobaccobill or contact Duncan Robertson at Holyrood magazine conferences on 0131 272 2175.

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