The Scottish Parliament has this week voted in
favour of the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill, which thus passes
Stage 1 of the Scottish Parliamentary process. The plan to deal
with Scotland’s drink problem by minimum pricing for alcohol
is therefore a step closer.
If finally enacted, the Bill will ensure
minimum alcohol pricing which will affect pricing and marketing
plans for onsite providers (such as pubs, hotels and restaurants)
and retailers such as supermarkets and corner shops.
This would have an impact on retailers (including
supermarkets), wholesalers, producers and the food and drink /
leisure industry at large. Longer term health benefits may become
apparent and in the short term, retailers and the drinks industry
will watch carefully to consider their revenues and market
The Bill is now subject to scrutiny under Stage 2
(detailed consideration by committee) with the prospect of Stage 3
(detailed scrutiny by Parliament) before a Parliamentary debate on
passing the Bill. The Scottish Government has said that it will
announce the minimum prices before MSPs cast their final vote. The
price will be based on three factors, namely the strength, volume
and a price per unit of alcohol.
Minimum pricing for alcohol was a high profile, and
ultimately unsuccessful, policy of the minority SNP Government in
Scotland. In September 2010, it announced that it wanted the
minimum price to be 45 pence per unit. The SNP was returned in a
majority government in May last year and soon brought back the
proposals. Since then, the Conservatives and Lib Dems have changed
their minds and decided to support the Scottish Government policy
(echoing the UK Coalition Government’s stated approach for
minimum alcohol pricing to be introduced in England and Wales).
Support in the Scottish Parliament for the Bill has
been has been enhanced by the SNP confirming it will support an
amendment to be proposed by the Scottish Conservatives during Stage
2, namely that there will be a “sunset clause.” The
effect of this is that the Scottish parliament will be able to
review the effectiveness of the policy after five years, with the
prospect of rescinding what would by then be law if it is found not
to be workable or sufficiently beneficial.
Supporting and explanatory documentation to
the Bill states that it is estimated that there will be
higher revenues to the alcohol industry as a whole, but it
acknowledged that where that increased revenue might be found
(whether it would benefit retailers, wholesalers or producers or
indeed all of them) was beyond the remit of the modelling that was
undertaken on order to produce the note.
Cabinet Secretary for Health & Wellbeing,
Nicola Sturgeon, said, “We have introduced a ban on quantity
discounts and promotions in off-sales have been restricted, but
already we have seen that without minimum pricing these attempts to
take action on Scotland's alcohol problem are being undermined. By
setting a minimum price for a unit of alcohol, we can raise the
price of the cheap supermarket white ciders, lager and value
spirits sought out by problem drinkers.”
The Scottish government has already unveiled plans
to introduce a business rates supplement on larger retailers
selling alcohol and tobacco, which they said would generate about
£95m over the next three years. The retail levy recently passed its
final test when a motion to annul it was defeated in the Scottish
Parliament’s Local Government & Regeneration Committee.
Applying to stores of £300,000 Rateable Value or more which sell
alcohol and tobacco.
The impact on health and industry will become
apparent, with consequences on the development of future
supermarkets and retailer facilities (size and location); on the
production and supply levels for producers and even the marketing
strategies and financial modelling within the hotel and leisure