‘Don’t destroy Scotland’s drinks industry’, say producers in response to proposed alcohol advertising restrictions

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Scottish proposals include a ban on outdoor alcohol advertising in public places. Pic:getty/marioguti
Scottish proposals include a ban on outdoor alcohol advertising in public places. Pic:getty/marioguti

Related tags Scotland Alcohol Advertising Marketing

A coalition of more than 100 producers and brands active in Scotland are calling on the government to abandon plans to heavily restrict alcohol marketing in the country.

The wide-reaching proposals could include a ban on alcohol sports sponsorship, outdoor billboard marketing and the sale of branded merchandise at distilleries.

A letter, published this month in The Times, highlights the sector employs 88,700 people and contributes £6.1bn ($7.4bn) to Scotland’s economy annually.

It is signed by more than 100 producers including heavyweights Asahi UK, Beam Suntory, Carlsberg, Diageo and Heineken UK; alongside smaller beer, cider and spirit distilleries.

“Plans unveiled by the Scottish Government to introduce a blanket ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship could not have come at a worse time for our sector, and the many thousands we employ,” reads the letter.

“Such a ban will harm Scotland’s alcohol distillers and brewers, who are an integral component of ‘Brand Scotland’ with no clear evidence to justify such a move.

“Restricting the ability to promote and market products responsibly will remove a vital route to market and go against the Scottish Government’s vision to double the turnover of the food and drink sector by 2030.

“A further unintended consequence of these proposals would be the blocking of a key source of vital funds to Scotland’s sports and arts & culture sectors, at a time when they can least afford this.

“This will also disproportionately impact Scottish businesses, with global brands remaining able to engage with major international sport teams and events, which carry prominence in Scotland and in many cases the broadcast coverage accompanying it.”

Retail restrictions

The proposals – which also include restrictions on the retail display of alcohol and advertisements in print and online media – are an effort from the Scottish government to stop children and vulnerable people from seeing and being influenced by alcohol advertising.

The proposals - which are currently out for consultation until March 9 - include:

  • Banning alcohol adverts in print media
  • A ban on sports sponsorship, which would also include bans on players and staff featuring in alcohol adverts in print and online
  • A ban on alcohol events sponsorship
  • A total ban on outdoor alcohol advertising including on vehicles and in public places
  • Restrictions on the retail of display of alcohol
  • Ban the sales of alcohol-branded merchandise in Scotland,
  • Extending any marketing restrictions to low and no alcohol alternatives which share branding with drinks over 1.2% ABV.
  • Restricting the content of alcohol advertising to only factual statements

While the industry says it supports the goals, it believes that advertising restrictions will not address the heart of the problem.

“Scotland has a long and proud heritage of brewing and distilling the very finest drinks in the world. Our whiskies, beers, gins and other products are enjoyed and sought after across the globe – iconic exports which in turn drive our economy here at home,” continues the letter in The Times.

“Our sector suffered hard through the Covid years but proved its resilience as it has so many times before. Today, in a cost-of-living crisis that is placing unbearable strain on our customers, the Scottish drinks industry is once again facing a challenge which threatens the very existence of many of its members.

“We recognise and share in the Scottish Government’s determination to reduce harmful consumption of alcohol and agree that there will be further workable steps the alcohol industry can take to help. However, these proposals will not serve to achieve this and do not address the root cause of why someone might come to have a harmful relationship with alcohol. Instead, they will needlessly hold our country back, to the detriment of Scottish jobs."

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