SBPA calls for trial period for minimum pricing bill

By Gurjit Degun

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Minimum pricing Scotland

SBPA calls for trial period for minimum pricing bill
The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has called for the Scottish Parliament to include a trial period as a provision in the minimum pricing bill, if it goes ahead.

In its response to the consultation on the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill, the SBPA said that a “sunset clause” should be added to the legislation because the measure is “untested and untried and should be subject to meaningful scrutiny following its introduction”.

SBPA chief executive Patrick Browne said: “This will mean that the Parliament will have to vote for minimum pricing to be retained going forward rather than the measure simply rolling forward without being assessed. Ironically, the sunset clause provision was the only aspect of minimum pricing to have been passed previously by the Scottish Parliament and the fact that it has been removed is of concern.

“Similarly, the Bill as it stands contains no details about the mechanisms by which minimum pricing would be set, and what process would lead to deciding a figure. We are worried that leaving those critical details to subsequent regulations inevitably means they will be subject to less parliamentary scrutiny and safeguards. We will be pressing for those details to be included in the Bill before it is finally voted on by the Scottish Parliament.”

The SBPA also called for more evidence, as it believes details of how any minimum pricing proposals will work “is unclear”.

It stated: “We would suggest this detail needs to be included on the face of the Bill itself and not left to regulations which are subject to much lower levels of parliamentary scrutiny than the legislation itself. Additionally, we would suggest that any specific proposed minimum price for a unit of alcohol needs to be introduced on the basis of clear evidence, which should be subject to independent scrutiny.

“As the Scottish Government has conceded the drinks industry cannot be involved in discussions about minimum pricing levels. SBPA would suggest that this severely undermines the ability of any pricing proposals to be implemented and adjusted on an evidence-based foundation.”

The association also said that the Government should accommodate any existing contractual agreements between pubs and suppliers. This is dependent on how soon minimum pricing would be introduced if the bill was passed.

The response said: “We would request that the Scottish Government delivers a funded awareness campaign relating to the introduction of minimum pricing in the lead-up to its introduction targeted at customers and more importantly the trade. This critical support has been lacking in relation to previous changes in licensing legislation introduced by the Scottish Government.”

The SBPA indicated that it expected that some of its members would make their own responses to the Committee’s consultation because individual views of members vary.


In a House of Commons debate on alcohol taxation earlier this week, economic secretary to the Treasury Chloe Smith MP reiterated the government's belief that minimum pricing "could be incompatible with article 34 of the treaty of the functioning of the European Union".

Smith said "it would be difficult to distinguish to find ways to vary VAT on similar products" when asked about the issue of imposing a higher rate of VAT on alcohol sold in supermarkets,

She added: "On price distortion and perhaps distasteful practices at the border, the UK government will look into that closely."

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