INDEPENDENT shops group the Scottish Grocers Federation has hit out at the Scottish Government’s alcohol strategy, insisting that further regulation is “not the answer”.
The comments came after a report from NHS Health Scotland concluded that off-trade alcohol sales had dipped slightly since the ban on multi-buy deals was introduced in the off-trade as part of the Alcohol Act last October.
The decline was said to be in line with a trend seen south of the border, where no similar ban is in effect.
SGF chief executive John Drummond said the Alcohol Act has caused disruption to retailers yet “failed to make the impact which the Scottish Government told us it would”.
According to the report, which specifically looked at the effects of the quantity discount ban, sales of alcohol through Scottish off-sales dipped by 4.3% in the 33 weeks after the ban came in, when compared to the same 33-week period a year earlier.
In the same period, off-trade alcohol sales in England and Wales dipped by 3.3%.
The Scottish Government said the multi-buy ban will have greater impact when underpinned by a minimum unit price for alcohol.
But Drummond said minimum pricing will only “hit low-income families, especially moderate drinkers, who will have to pay more for the products that they enjoy”.
“We’re aware that Scotland does have this issue with alcohol,” he said.
“It seems to be more prevalent in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, which only points to the fact that it’s a cultural problem and should be handled by education and similar public interventions – awareness campaigns and so on – as opposed to causing issues and problems for retailers.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government told SLTN: “Alcohol misuse is costing Scotland around £3.6 billion a year and we welcome the decline in sales of alcohol since the introduction of the quantity discount ban.
“We have always been clear that there is no single solution to tackling Scotland’s alcohol problems and the quantity discount ban will be most effective when used alongside minimum pricing, as this will prevent deep discounting of products.
“NHS Health Scotland will be publishing a fuller analysis of the impact of the ban in due course.”