Action needed to mitigate impact on trade, Scottish SIBA chair says
By Gillian McKenzie
THE newly-appointed Scottish chairman of brewers’ group SIBA has pledged to lobby the Scottish Government over the “devastating” impact the new drink drive limit is having on pubs.
Gerald Michaluk, managing director of Arran Brewery, said business in bars, golf clubs and rural pubs has been “decimated” since the blood alcohol limit was reduced from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg on December 5. As reported in SLTN January 8, many operators say the new limit has impacted on trade. Greene King also reported “softer trading in Scotland following the introduction of tougher drink-driving laws”.
Michaluk said he intends to lobby ministers to highlight the impact the new limit is having on pubs.
“We’re going to talk to the government about what they are going to do to support the industry – the 85 breweries, the thousands of pubs,” he said.
“Whether it’s through VAT or rates – they need to support pubs now because this is a further blow they didn’t need.
“The government says how wonderful the whisky and craft beer industries are and how important tourism is, and then they pull the rug from under us. This has not been thought through in terms of the impact.
“People are uncertain about the new limit so they’re being cautious, which you can understand because they know they can end up with a criminal charge. If they wanted to bring us in line with the rest of Europe the penalties should have been staged; having the same penalties for the reduced limit, which is not over the limit in the rest of the UK, is ridiculous.
“A lot of people are not going to pubs and not drinking in the evenings because they’re worried about the next morning; people who enjoyed going out for a beer at a country pub on a Sunday can’t do it any more; and the tourist spend will go down. Tourists will say ‘will I bother going to Scotland where I can’t have a pint of beer with my lunch or will I just stay in England?’
“We’re right behind publicans on this; we’re standing shoulder to shoulder to make the government realise this is having a devastating impact.”
SLTA chief Paul Waterson said: “We knew 20 years ago the effect that lowering it would have on pubs. We’ve now got to say to the government ‘do you want a pub business in Scotland and all that goes with it? If you do, what are you going to give us to mitigate this?’
“VAT and duty is Westminster so they could start with changing the rates system. And there will be other things.
“Pubs are vital to Scotland’s tourism industry; the government has to do something to mitigate the impact.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland is leading the way across the UK with the introduction of a lower drink drive limit, and the decrease in the number of drink drive detections during the festive drink drive campaign is testament to the immediate effect of the new limit.
“As part of the campaign the Scottish Government won support from drinks companies and a variety of alcohol retailers, as well as national pub companies and groups such as the Scottish Retail Consortium, Scottish Grocers’ Federation and DrinkAware.
“We know that licensees do not wish to place their customers or other road users at risk, and if people act responsibly, for example by nominating a designated driver, this will help mitigate any impact on trade.”