New laws prohibit multibuy alcohol purchases

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Scottish lawmakers have cracked down on the promotion of alcohol in response to concerns over an increasingly “unhealthy” drinking culture.

New government legislation, which came into effect on Saturday 1 October, now prohibits retailers from offering ‘multibuy’ or multi-case discounts on alcoholic beverages.

The laws were passed in Holyrood after an NHS report revealed that adults in Scotland are now consuming 23% more alcohol than adults in England and Wales, the widest statistical gap recorded in the last 17 years.

They come as part of the wider Alcohol Scotland Act 2010, which also restricts alcohol advertising around shop premises, enacts more stringent age checks, and adds a new tax for some license holders.

This “social responsibility levy” is meant to ensure that alcohol vendors assume greater financial accountability for the impact of drinking on the community.

 

Photo: Henry Turnbull

A survey by the Scottish Government’s Health Analytical Services Division estimates the price of alcohol misuse at £2.25bn per year, taking into consideration costs to businesses, the NHS, police, and court services.

Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, said the figure comes to £900 for every adult.

However, there are concerns that the new approach could backfire, for instance if retailers respond by cutting the prices of individual products, or decide to only stock multipacks.

Tesco have already announced that they will continue to offer online discounts to customers buying wine, through a legal loophole which allows the cases to be dispatched from a depot in England.

Sturgeon said the SNP plan to counteract such possibilities by bringing back proposals for a bill to fix the minimum price per unit of alcohol at 45p.

Statistics from the NHS report on national consumption levels of various drinks call into question the link between price and popularity. Wine is currently the highest, with sales having doubled since the mid 1990’s.

While ready-mixed drinks and alcopops also saw growth, spirit sales remained constant, and those of beer, cider, and fortified wine declined.

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