Tax plan

Labour risks business backlash over ‘booze tax’

Alcohol sale in supermarket
Large retailers face a new levy on alcohol sales

Scottish Labour is risking a showdown with business leaders after demanding the reintroduction of a public health levy on retailers selling alcohol.

Labour says the so-called ‘booze tax’ will ensure that Scotland’s Alcohol and Drug Partnerships get the support they need at a time when the country is in the grip of a public health emergency.

There have been 11,209 deaths attributed to alcohol-specific causes in the last decade. In 2022, 1,276 deaths were recorded, which is the highest number since 2008.

Labour accuses retailers of making £40 million in additional revenue from the Scottish Government’s Minimum Unit Pricing policy when the SNP cut alcohol and drug treatment by £46m in real terms over a five year period.

The SNP Government introduced a Public Health Supplement in 2012, which raised £95.9m in revenue from alcohol and tobacco sales to fund preventative measures. This was below the expected £110m.

Retailers selling alcohol and tobacco from premises with a rateable value of more than £300,000 had to pay the extra tax. But it was scrapped after just three years.

In its recent Budget, SNP ministers signalled that they are considering reversing the decision and reintroducing the Public Health Supplement.

The Scottish Retail Consortium opposes the proposal. In a recent statement, David Lonsdale, director, said: “A new levy on grocers smacks of incoherent policymaking within government. 

“It’s a bizarre way to behave when other ministers are looking to grocers for help to implement new regulatory measures including in-store restrictions on alcohol marketing, curbs on selling products high in salt and sugar, and a likely rise in alcohol minimum unit pricing.” 

Scottish Labour is calling for the implementation of a public health levy on alcohol sales to ensure income generated by Minimum Unit Pricing can fund life-saving treatment.

MSP Carol Mochan said: “Alcohol abuse remains a major health hazard in Scotland, with lives being lost as a result.

“Despite this, the SNP’s actions are allowing retailers to cash in on additional money from alcohol sales while frontline services are being cut.

“This is nothing short of a shameful failure of those most in need and a clear example of this government’s skewed priorities.

“Minimum Unit Pricing is no silver bullet and without properly funded Drug and Alcohol Partnerships then more lives will be avoidably lost.

“Scottish Labour is repeating its longstanding call for the implementation of a Public Health Levy so that services and those who need them get the support that they need.”

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