Drink group says Scottish strictness is spreading

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags United kingdom Scotland

National governments are increasingly taking the lead from Scotland in looking to clamp down on the sales and marketing practices of alcoholic drinks makers, throwing further uncertainty over their livelihoods, according to one trade group.

The UK-based Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) suggested that a consumer needed only to look beyond the Scottish border into England to see examples of the increasingly strict proposals being favoured by governments.

The comments come after industry groups across the UK welcomed the Scottish government’s decision to open up its alcohol proposals to parliamentary scrutiny as part of a proposed health bill.

Measures such as minimum pricing per unit of alcohol, permissible wine glass sizes and lifting the age limit at certain premises to 21 will now be debated by debated in the form of primary legislation.

WSTA spokesperson Gavin Partington said that politicians of all sides, who may be more inclined to back the bill, would have a chance to discuss the measures.

Euro push

However, as European governments and other groups continue to react to concerns over alcohol abuse rates across the bloc, the WSTA said that more radical measures to cut down on drinking were being sought.

Partington claims that measures being considered in the UK, which like those of the Scottish government propose initiatives like minimum pricing for alcohol, were ‘misguided’ and served to punish all consumers.

The proposals, which could be part of a wider crime bill presented to the UK Parliament, are expected to undergo an official consultation in the next few months, said the WSTA. The possible passing of these measures would raise further concerns for an industry already struggling in the economic downturn, suggested the trade group

“While we don’t, as an organisation, have policies on alcohol sales and promotion, we object to restrictions on every consumer,”​ stated Partington.

The spokesperson conceded that although the WSTA supported clampdowns for on-trade practices like ‘all you can drink’ promotions, it did not wish to see everyday consumers being denied access to competitively priced alcohol.

Scottish view

Despite industry concerns over the new policies being proposed in markets like the UK, the Scottish Government says it remains committed to driving ahead with a tougher stance on Alcohol to battle health concerns linked to drinking.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health secretary, said the government estimates £2.2bn (€2.3bn) is being spent each year to provide additional health services to compensate for alcohol abuse in the country.

"Alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths have increased markedly in recent years and this Government has already set out our framework for addressing the root causes behind these statistics,"​ she stated.

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