Trade rebuffs fresh alcohol levy calls

Any additional alcohol tax should target supermarkets, says the SLTA

Minimum unit pricing went live on May 1

THE Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has dismissed fresh calls for the implementation of a levy on alcohol sales, saying such a tax should not target the on-trade.

Scottish Labour MSP David Stewart issued the call following the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) earlier this month (May 1), stating that while MUP “is an important step on the road to tackling this public health issue”, the so-called social responsibility levy should be introduced.

“Ministers currently have the option to introduce a social responsibility levy under the Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Act 2010, which would allow for funds from the sale of alcohol to be redirected back into local health services,” he said.

However, Paul Waterson of the SLTA told SLTN that any additional levy should only target the off-trade – specifically, the major supermarkets – which he said are responsible for the majority of alcohol sales in Scotland.

“I think people should always realise the foundation of any argument in the licensed trade at the moment should be that 75% of all alcohol sold in Scotland is sold by the off-trade and the vast majority of that – upwards of 90% – is sold by supermarkets,” said Waterson.

“So if they’re wanting to do anything, they should target the people that are most at fault, which is supermarkets here; that’s where all the sales [go].

“You’ve got five or six individuals controlling the alcohol market in Scotland – so hands off the on-trade because we are doing everything we can to be responsible here, and so are many individual off-sales operators.”

When contacted by SLTN, the Scottish Government did not comment on the levy, but said the aim of MUP “is to reduce alcohol consumption”, adding that it “will continue to keep the matter under review”.