By Dave Hunter
SLTA chief Paul Waterson said it is “absolutely vital” the industry and health organisations continue to work together on alcohol policy following the resignation of four public health representatives from the NLAG; the group was set up last year to advise the government on alcohol policy and comprises representatives from government, licensing boards, police, the drinks industry and licensed trade groups.
Evelyn Gillan of Alcohol Focus Scotland, Eric Carlin of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, Nick Smith of Edinburgh Alcohol & Drug Partnership and health consultant Catherine Chiang left the group late last month, claiming they were unhappy with the presence of drinks and licensed trade representatives on the forum.
In a statement, Gillan, Carlin and Smith said there is “an inherent conflict of interest in having the producers and retailers of alcohol involved in determining the conditions of their own regulation in the manner that the NLAG remit entails”.
“As health partners, we proposed an alternative structure for the group whereby it would be led by those responsible for licensing regulation,” they said.
“We believe this would have enabled the group to proceed while protecting the public interest; with stakeholder groups including the licensed trade, health and police participating in discussion as and when requested by the revised group.
“This would not have excluded any interested party, but would have sought to ensure that any input was appropriate.
“It was with regret that the health partners took the decision to resign from the group when the government decided that it should continue in its current format.”
Waterson said it is “vital” the industry and health organisations continue to work together.
“We would call for all sides to stay together, because we need everybody’s input to try to alleviate the problems Scotland has with alcohol,” he said.
“We’re desperate not to have some sort of war between the industry and health, because that won’t do anybody any good.”
He added that, despite the departure of the health representatives, the advisory group remains “very strong”. “I hope the health people will reconsider and bring their expertise to the table,” he said.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government believes that it is useful to bring together a broad mix of stakeholders to discuss the issues around alcohol licensing and the NLAG includes representatives from local authorities, government, police and trade.
“We regret that public health representatives felt that they were unable to participate however they remain welcome to return to the group.”