Alcohol Bill Requires More Detail

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) is concerned the uncertainty created by the Scottish Government’s new Alcohol Etc (Scotland) Bill, published today will stifle growth and inward investment in the Scottish convenience store sector. The Bill takes considerable enabling powers whilst providing little detail. As a result it is extremely difficult to determine the likely impact of the legislation on small shops, should the enabling powers be enforced.

John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said;

“This Bill would give the Scottish Government sweeping powers to impose legislation with little detail. SGF is concerned the lack of detail in the Bill will prohibit the Scottish Parliament from properly scrutinising measures which will have a huge impact on the trade and consumers.”

“Promotions benefit the vast majority of responsible adult consumers that buy alcohol in Scotland. It is particularly harsh of the Government to penalise those who drink responsibly at a time when there is increased pressure on household budgets. Furthermore this would place Scottish retailers at a disadvantage and have a damaging impact on their competitiveness. ”

Under 21s
“The Scottish Government continues to ignore public opinion and the will of the Parliament by continuing to pursue this policy. To impose this measure solely on off-sales will establish ridiculous anomalies. It penalises the vast majority of under 21s who consume alcohol responsibly. Retailers have learnt through bitter experience that devolving powers to local licensing boards leads to inconsistent practices from area to area. This Bill will allow licensing boards to decide the locality of a ban which could result in responsible retailers being unintentionally caught in the net with no appeal process other than a Judicial Review. This will disadvantage small shops that do not have the resources available to go to a review.”

Restrictions on Marketing Material
“It is the supermarkets who have been accused of running irresponsible promotions yet measures to prohibit alcohol marketing will play into the hands of the multiples and work against small retailers who cannot afford national newspaper, radio and TV advertising and rely on low cost options including window bills and fliers to advertise their promotions.”

Social Responsibility Levy
“The Bill provides no detail of how a social responsibility levy will be administered. SGF are concerned that it will be punitive and indiscriminate and will be an additional cost and burden for retailers already reeling from the increase in licensing fees introduced in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005.”

Mandatory Challenge 21
“SGF members already operate Challenge 21 and many operate Challenge 25 policies in their stores, which goes beyond the requirements set out in the Bill. If the Scottish Government is really serious about this issue then this new measure must be more than just tokenism. They must root out the rogue retailers that flout the law and sell to under 18s. In addition, the Scottish Government must recognise that retail staff on the front line of preventing underage sales, often confronted by abusive and intimidating members of the public, require support from law enforcement officers.”

“If the Scottish Government is really serious about addressing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol they should enforce the existing legislation properly, develop specific interventions to target problem drinkers and start to address the underlying cultural issues which cause Scots to abuse alcohol through improved education.”