The Scottish Government is considering resurrecting its “social responsibility” tax on alcohol retailers, following the publication of figures showing almost three-quarters of the country’s alcohol sales are through the off-trade.
The issue was raised last month at Holyrood by former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.
Pointing to figures published in NHS Health Scotland’s ‘Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy’ report, he said: “Given the significant shifts in drinking patterns from the on to the off-trade, with 72% now provided by the off-licence trade as opposed to 49% in 1994, will the Scottish Government ensure that actions target where the major source of the problem of abuse of alcohol lies?”
Deputy first minister John Swinney replied: “The Scottish Government position has always been that we will not introduce the social responsibility levy during the lifetime of the public health supplement, and until the economic circumstances are correct. The public health subsidy has now concluded, and the government will consider in due course if there is a case to apply a social responsibility levy for which legislative provision currently exists.”
He added that the points raised by MacAskill will be “part of the Government’s consideration of how to take forward this issue”.
Provisions to allow the introduction of a social responsibility levy were approved in the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill 2010, but shelved till the public health supplement ran its course.
The basic premise is that the costs of servicing the social and economic effects of alcohol misuse in towns and cities throughout Scotland would be met partially or wholly by the industry, and funded through an additional charge paid by licence holders.
It was criticised by a number of groups such as the Scottish Retail Consortium, which said the supplement discriminated against a small number of businesses.