SGF Comment on Alcohol Commission Report

The Scottish Labour Alcohol Commission has published its final report on how to reduce the level of alcohol abuse in Scotland.

The report makes a series of recommendations including:

  • a UK-wide approach that sets a “floor price” for alcohol that includes “the basic cost of production + duty+ VAT” with increases in duty acting as the main lever for achieving price levels that reduce misuse;
  • mandatory challenge 25;
  • improved educational techniques with the clear aim of tackling actual and potential alcohol abuse;
  • limits on the number of licenses and hours of sale;
  • the creation of a social responsibility levy to be paid for by alcohol retailers (on and off sales) and/or local sales tax on alcohol to be paid for by the purchaser;
  • legislation on how alcohol sales within supermarkets and stores should be fully separate from other purchases:
  • legislation to curtail alcohol advertising

John Drummond, Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation said:

“We welcome the Commission’s recognition that changing Scotland’s challenging relationship with alcohol requires a change in culture which must include an improvement in alcohol education starting in primary school. We also support and welcome their recommendation for a UK wide approach to the pricing of alcohol which introduces a ban on the sale of alcohol below a set floor price. This will stop supermarkets selling alcohol at irresponsibly low prices, help to level the playing field between small shops and the supermarkets and will prevent the unintended consequences which could arise from the introduction of minimum pricing.

“However, we have serious concerns regarding a number of the recommendations particularly relating to the creation of a social responsibility levy, potential legislation to fully separate alcohol sales from other purchases within a store and limits to curtail the number of licenses and hours of sale.

“Rather than continuing to penalize responsible retailers by introducing a social responsibility levy we believe greater emphasis must be placed on personal responsibility. If there is seen to be justification for a levy it should be based on the alcohol turnover of each store.

“Separating alcohol sales within a store from other purchases would be totally unworkable for small shops that do not have the space available to set up a separate checkout for alcohol and is likely to antagonize customers. During the consultation held ahead of the Alcohol etc (Scotland) Bill this idea was considered and dropped. Such a measure would have considerable costs associated with it for retailers who already face the prospect of having to change their checkout area as a result of tobacco legislation. Recommendations must be supported by a clear evidence base that an intervention will have the desired social impact.

“Limiting the number of licences will stifle innovation and prevent new businesses, which will contribute to the economy and create vital jobs, from entering the market. Changes to trading hours were only introduced a year ago when the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 was fully implemented. Existing legislation should be given time to work before consideration is given to moving the deckchairs once again.”

Alcohol Commission Report Final Word versionHD011