SCOTLAND – The Scottish alcohol industry awaits the final step the Scotland government would take in either making or rejecting the strict alcohol marketing restrictions as the consultation period on the proposal elapsed yesterday.

Scotland has already pioneered minimum unit pricing (the measure was introduced in 2018) and now wants to go further with restrictions on alcohol marketing.

The country is considering restricting adverts for alcohol at so many places that had previously attracted alcohol sales, including sporting events, on buses, and online, in a bid to address the country’s ‘deep, longstanding and troubled relationship with alcohol.’

Potential restrictions include prohibiting alcohol sports sponsorship; banning marketing outdoors (such as on vehicles and in public spaces); and restricting the visibility of alcohol in supermarket stores (such as covering alcohol behind the till areas in a similar way to tobacco).

The proposed restrictions are aimed at stopping children and vulnerable people from seeing and being influenced by alcohol advertising.

Public Health Minister, Maree Todd, said: “There is clear evidence that adverts which glamorize drinking can encourage young people to drink alcohol and have a detrimental impact on those in recovery from problem alcohol use. 

“We are making progress already – with our minimum unit pricing reducing alcohol sales in the off-trade – but with 1,245 alcohol-related deaths last year, we know that more needs to be done if we are to tackle Scotland’s problematic relationship with alcohol.”

There is a long-standing relationship between alcohol brands and sports in Scotland, particularly in football and rugby union, she noted.

Todd added that research considering 34 rugby and football teams/organizations in Scotland found that nearly four in ten of the teams audited (39%) had a sponsorship relationship with an alcohol producer or distributor.

Already, many associations representing parties involved directly and indirectly in the alcohol industry have come out to rebel against the proposal and urged Scottish ministers to rethink well the intentions.

In a joint statement penned as a letter, nine organizations, including the Advertising Association, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, told the Scottish ministers the proposed law will not address excessive alcohol consumption and they should rethink other options, Insider UK reports.

The letter said: “Whilst we understand the desire to reduce alcohol consumption harms in Scotland, there is no evidence that advertising bans will achieve that aim. The proposals set out by the Scottish government will fail to address the problem.”

 “We call for a fundamental rethink of the proposals with a focus on targeted and practical policies that facilitate behavior change without damaging the Scottish economy and the advertising and creative industries that are important to entrepreneurial Scotland that the Scottish Government wants to see.”

The GMB union, which represents thousands of workers in the brewing and spirits industry, has also opposed the proposal, noting the adverse effect the economy could have as a result of policies made “within the Holyrood bubble.”

GMB Scotland organizer David Hume said that while the consultation is well-intentioned, an alcohol advertising ban will inevitably be detrimental to jobs across the sector and its supply chains.

“And in a cost-of-living crisis, workers in the real world shouldn’t pay the price for the unintended consequences of decisions taken within the Holyrood bubble. That’s why GMB is urging ministers to scrap their proposals and work with employers and unions to bring forward a national strategy to support the sector rather than restrict it,” Hume explained.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of a body representing both pubs and brewers, highlighted that the government’s consultation was “poorly conceived” and had “refused to acknowledge the economic, social, historic, and cultural importance of the brewing, distilling, and hospitality sector.”

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