An international alcohol conference held in Edinburgh has attracted controversy after the alcohol industry was ‘banned’ from the event.
The Global Alcohol Policy Conference took place last week at the EICC, co-hosted by Alcohol Focus Scotland and with the keynote speech delivered by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
But representatives from the alcohol industry were refused entry to the three-day event.
A spokeswoman for the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) told SLTN the organisation was “disappointed not to have been allowed in”.
“We believe in working collaboratively with government and the health lobby and want to continue to do so,” said the spokeswoman.
In a statement, SWA chief executive David Frost said: “We believe partnership working between government and other stakeholders is fundamental to tackling alcohol harm.
“It is therefore frustrating that we, along with all members of the alcohol industry, have been told we are not welcome at this week’s Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh.”
Licensing lawyer Janet Hood added: “It is absolutely astonishing if this organisation was unable to enter into a reasonable debate with the producers and purveyors of alcohol.”
Barbara O’ Donnell, acting chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, confirmed representatives of the alcohol industry “were not permitted to attend this conference”.
“The Global Alcohol Policy Alliance is a network of non-governmental organisations and people working in public health agencies who share information on alcohol issues and advocate evidence-based alcohol policies, ‘free from commercial interests’,” she said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman stressed that the event was hosted by Alcohol Focus Scotland and the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance and not Holyrood.
“The list of invited attendees was a matter for the organisers, and not the Scottish Government,” she said.
During her speech Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is “absolutely committed” to minimum unit pricing.
“I will continue to make the case against the sale of deadly cheap alcohol,” said Sturgeon.
“During the three days of this conference, it is likely that approximately 300 people in Scotland will be admitted to hospital as a result of alcohol misuse, and that approximately ten people will die.
“Those shocking statistics demonstrate all too clearly why minimum pricing is the right measure for Scotland to reduce the harm that cheap, high-strength alcohol causes our communities.”