ScotGov has acknowledged the ‘high levels of opposition’ to its initial proposals for new restrictions on alcohol marketing, and pledged to go back to the drawing board to find a ‘narrower’ set of measures that might attract wider support.
At the close of November, the government published its analysis of the responses received to its Consultation on Restricting Alcohol Advertising and Promotion which showed the vast majority of individuals and most organisations with links to the alcohol industry thought the original proposals would not achieve the intended outcomes of reducing alcohol consumption and alcohol harm, or were disproportionate to the scale of the problem.
However, the response analysis also noted the schism in opinion between the industry, and other respondents representing public health, third sector, local authorities and academic organisations, who voiced ‘high levels of agreement’ with the clampdown proposals.
In the hope of bridging this gap, ScotGov plans to hold more talks with public health stakeholders and the alcohol industry early next year focussed on ways of limiting young people’s exposure to alcohol promotions.
Following that, the public will be asked for their views on a narrower range of proposals. While this partial retreat has been welcomed by the industry, ScotGov stressed that it was still keeping international public health evidence very much in mind – including the recommendation from the World Health Organization that restricting alcohol marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways of tackling alcohol harm.
Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Elena Whitham said: We’re determined to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, particularly to young people, while minimising any impacts on Scotland’s world class drinks industry or tourism sector.
“International evidence shows that alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that children and young people will start to drink alcohol or, if they already drink alcohol, drink more, while young people and their families have told us that they want us to take action.
“While almost all responses to the consultation acknowledged that children and young people should not be exposed to alcohol advertising and promotions, it is clear there are a range of views on how this might be achieved,” Whitham conceded. “Since the consultation was launched, the First Minister and other Ministers have engaged with a wide range of businesses and stakeholders.
“So we will continue to engage with all interested parties on specific, narrower, proposals that meet our aims. I’m confident this collaborative approach will ensure that we develop policies understanding the full range of opportunities and impacts.”
Responding to the ScotGov statement, UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “It’s clear from this analysis that organisations across hospitality, leisure and tourism are united in their view that the proposed measures would not achieve its stated aims and, at the same time, would significantly damage the sector.
“The recognition from the Scottish Government that they need to take this feedback into account and bring forward narrower, more considered, proposals is encouraging.
“An extensive consultation and review process for significant proposals like these is important and I’m pleased that the Scottish Government understands that. I look forward to continuing to contribute to this consultation process, representing hospitality businesses across Scotland.”