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Scottish drinks industry calls for balanced approach to alcohol policy

Published:  29 March, 2021

The Scottish Alcohol Industry Partnership (SAIP), an alliance of Scotland’s distillers, brewers, hospitality and retail businesses, has called for Scottish Parliamentary candidates to commit to a balanced approach to alcohol policy.

The SAIP Scottish Parliamentary Election Manifesto calls on prospective candidates in the May election to recognise the crucial role the industry has to play in the post-Covid recovery as well as supporting a positive policy agenda to accelerate progress in tackling alcohol harm.  

SAIP, whose members employ a total of 340,000 people in Scotland, with almost 90,000 of those jobs depending on the making, marketing and selling of alcohol, has called for three key asks, each aimed at accelerating efforts to tackle alcohol harm, while simultaneously helping the sector to recover from the pandemic.

Firstly, it has called for support for recovery from the Scottish government by it not introducing new regulations that add complexity, cost or limit the industry’s ability to engage with customers.

Secondly, for a shift to tackle harmful drinking with more targeted interventions. The SAIP manifesto points out the pandemic has reinforced pre-existing trends in alcohol consumption with 77% of Scots drinking within government guidelines or not drinking at all. However, the minority of people who drank at harmful levels pre-Covid had a tendency to drink more.  

Lastly, it also wants the industry and parliament to work together to recognise the progress made in improving Scotland’s relationship with alcohol and to further reduce harmful drinking. 

SAIP spokesperson Dr John Lee, chair of the SAIP Campaigns Group, said: “We want a positive partnership with our future parliamentarians and Scottish government so we can focus on tackling alcohol harm and accelerate the positive changes we are seeing in Scotland’s relationship with alcohol, whilst also safeguarding the jobs and economic security that the industry brings for tens of thousands of people across Scotland.”

SAIP also revealed that the industry generated £6bn for the Scottish economy, pre-Covid, including being the country’s leading exporter, largest customer of agriculture and the leader in growing tourism.

SAIP’s calls follow concerns that there are tough times ahead for the Scottish licensed hospitality sector. 

Trade bodies recently expressed bitter disappointment after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that bars, restaurants and cafés would not be able to serve alcohol indoors when the licensed hospitality industry reopens on 26 April.