SNP warned proposed alcohol marketing ban would harm Scotland’s whisky industry
The Press and Journal, 12 December 2022 by Justin Bowle
Scotland’s economy would take a hit if the country’s national drink cannot be promoted in shop windows under new laws, whisky industry bosses have warned.
Graeme Littlejohn, from the Scotch Whisky Association, said adverts in airports and cities are often crucial in convincing tourists to visit popular distilleries. He told MPs there were concerns SNP proposals to curb alcohol marketing could leave firms unable to sell branded merchandise. And he also warned that cultural events – such as the Highland Games – could be put at risk if whisky companies are restricted from sponsoring them.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting the public on plans to limit alcohol advertisements. It is claimed the measures are needed to clamp down on excessive drinking and prevent children from being exposed to alcohol at such a young age.
Speaking at Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee, Mr Littlejohn said: “There is a concern that people would come to Scotland and effectively Scotland’s national drink would not be able to be advertised in Scotland. “If you take someone through the journey of when they arrive at an airport, they see an advert for a distillery, they might then want to go and get a T-shirt or a hat or a bottle of whisky to take home with them and tell the story of the industry. “Then that attracts more people to come to our country, to invest, and to support the local economies and the national economy.”
‘As comprehensive as possible’
On the proposed restrictions, the SNP government states: “It is crucial that any potential restrictions to reduce the volume of alcohol marketing are as comprehensive as possible.” Proposed areas where marketing could be restricted include sporting events, billboards, posters on vehicles and in shopping centres, and merchandise. Last month it was warned the proposals could have “extremely grave” consequences for Scottish football. Mr Littlejohn said whisky firms agreed with some of the reasons behind the proposals, but said that had to be balanced against the economic benefits the sector brings. As of 2021, it’s estimated that the Scotch whisky industry brings in £5.5 billion a year for the UK. Mr Littlejohn said 2.2 million people visited distilleries in 2019 before the pandemic struck.
It is no surprise that the alcohol industry oppose marketing restrictions and in Scotland we have become familiar with seeing the Scotch Whisky Association lead the oposition on behalf of the rest of the industry, as they did with minmum unit pricing. Self regulation has not been effective in reducing marketing exposure so the reasons for government to explore options to improve controls are obvious.”