Drinks firms say advertising ban will destroy sector
Nicola Sturgeon said her government will take on board the objections to a proposed ban on alcohol advertising, but insisted that public health was paramount.
The First Minister was responding to a letter from the drinks industry which warned that the plan would decimate one of Scotland’s biggest industries, with wider damage to the economy.
Ms Sturgeon said that “glamorising” drinking could lead to “over-consumption of alcohol”.
She said: “This is not about doing economic damage to the alcohol industry.
“It is about making sure we are taking responsible steps to protect public health.”
She said she was “aware” of the letter, adding that public health minister Maree Todd is due to meet alcohol industry bosses, amongst others, during the consultation.
Brewhaven, Budweiser Brewing Group, Johnnie Walker whisky maker Diageo, Lanson Champagne and Tennent’s Lager are among signatories to the letter opposing the policy which would affect pubs, restaurants, delicatessens, off-licences, wine and whisky shops.
Ministers could also ban outdoor advertising of alcohol, including on vehicles, as well as adverts in newspapers and magazines.
It could also see the end of sponsorship of sport and other live events by alcoholic drinks companies.
The Scottish government’s consultation about the proposals is due to conclude next month. Its aim is to reduce the impact of alcohol on the nation’s health.
But more than 100 drinks firms, including brewers and distillers, have signed the letter, saying the move to ban advertising and marketing would devastate one of Scotland’s biggest industries.
They state: “Restricting the ability to promote and market products responsibly will remove a vital route to market and go against the Scottish government’s vision to double the turnover of the food and drink sector by 2030.
“A further unintended consequence would be the blocking of a key source of vital funds to Scotland’s sports and arts and culture sectors.”
The sector employs 88,700 in Scotland, and contributes £6.1 billion a year to the economy. The letter describes whisky, beers and gins produced in Scotland as being “iconic exports which in turn drive our economy at home”.
The companies insist they “recognise and share in the Scottish government’s determination to reduce harmful consumption of alcohol”, adding that there will be “further workable steps” the sector can take to help.
They argue, however: “These proposals will not serve to achieve this and do not address the root cause of why someone might come to have a harmful relationship with alcohol”.
More than two million people visited Scottish distilleries in 2019. It is unclear how attractions such as the Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh could continue if a ban was implemented.
A Scottish government spokesman said: “Alcohol-related harm is one of the most pressing public health challenges. An average of 700 people are hospitalised and 24 people die each week from illnesses caused by drinking alcohol.”
Maree Todd, the public health minister, is to meet “key stakeholders” to “hear directly” their concerns.