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Scottish Government plans alcohol restrictions

The WSTA has slammed proposals issued by the Scottish Government to restrict the promotion and sale of alcohol. Cabinet secretary Kenny MacAskill has called for a ban on price-based promotions and new regulations governing where alcohol can be positioned instore, and the Government is rumoured to be considering implementing minimum prices. WSTA chief exec Jeremy Beadles said, “these measures are not based on evidence”.

“We understand and share the Scottish Government’s desire to take action to reduce alcohol related harm,” said Beadles, “but we do not believe that today’s announcements will do anything except restrict consumer choice and damage the Scottish economy. The Scottish Government recognises that alcohol is a legal substance enjoyed responsibly by most of the adult population. Rather than hiding alcohol away and penalising the whole population with controls on pricing and promotions, we should continue to work together to find evidence-based, targeted solutions that will actually make a difference to the underlying problems of misuse.”

The Scottish Retail Consortium has also issued a scathing criticism of the proposals. Fiona Moriaty, SRC director said, “Instead of addressing alcohol misuse as the complex social issue that it is, the Government has decided to impose a series of dubious but headline-grabbing restrictions on the off-license trade. It is hard to see what the Government is hoping to achieve aside from looking tough on alcohol. There is no evidence to suggest that off-trade promotions increase alcohol misuse.”

While both organisations are committed to solving the serious issue of problem consumption, there is a strong feeling that these plans are more focused on generating headlines than tackling the problem. Serious questions must also be asked about what role the Government can play in fixing minimum prices within a free market economy.

Ben Grant, 05/09/07

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