UK: Scottish alcohol plans to face legal challenges
Plans to set minimum prices on drinks, restrict promotions and charge companies a "social responsibility" fee will face legal challenges if the Scottish Government attempts to implement them.
Alcoholic drinks firms and trade bodies expect to see a draft of the Scottish Government's long-awaited Alcohol Health Bill within the next two weeks, Jeremy Beadles, CEO of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association said at the trade body's Autumn Conference today (16 September).
Beadles said that "we can be sure" this will include minimum pricing, a "social responsibility levy" on drinks firms, a ban on promotions in the off-trade and a proposal to give local authorities the power to raise the legal age for buying alcohol in retailers from 18 to 21 years.
There will be tense weeks ahead for the industry as the Bill is thrashed out in Scotland's Parliament.
Should the measures pass, which would require Labour party backing for the ruling Scottish National Party, Beadles said he expects further hurdles for the Government.
"It all rests on where the Labour Group is going to end up. Beyond that, I foresee legal challenges, from people who send products up to Scotland and from people who export products from Scotland," said Beadles, who also warned that debate on ways to tackle excess drinking is becoming polarised.
Last week, just-drinks reported that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the UK's competition watchdog, is against minimum pricing on alcohol.
Today, Beadles, who met OFT CEO John Fingleton last week, said the competition watchdog is also "seriously worried" about plans to restrict promotions, for fear that this would create two competitive environments within what it views as one market; the UK.
The call last week by the British Medical Association (BMA) for an outright ban on alcohol advertising appeared to have little support in political circles or the media. Most crucially for the industr...
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