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Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action

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Annex A: Summary findings from the analysis of consultation responses by Hexagon Consulting Ltd

The Scottish Government received a total of 472 responses to Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Discussion Paper on Our Strategic Approach including 259 responses from individuals, 207 responses from organisations and six combined or group responses. In addition, Scottish Government Ministers received 53 letters or emails about issues relating to the discussion paper from members of the public. The findings from an independent analysis of consultation responses commissioned by the Scottish Government have been published 12 and demonstrate strong support for many of the key proposals included in the discussion paper.

Many respondents acknowledged the scale of the alcohol misuse problem in Scotland and the need for government to take decisive action. A summary of the main findings from the consultation analysis is provided below.

Restricting promotions and below-cost selling

There was strong support amongst responding organisations for restricting promotions and below-cost selling, with 73% in favour and only 19% against (most respondents commented on the principle of restricting promotions and below cost selling rather than on the specific options outlined in the discussion paper). As Figure 1 shows, health organisations (95%) and local government bodies (84%) were strongly in favour, while just over half (56%) of the trade and business sector respondents were opposed. A majority (55%) of individuals who offered an opinion were also in favour, in principle, of restricting promotions and below-cost selling.

Figure 1: Support for the principle of restricting promotions and below-cost selling

Figure 1: Support for the principle of restricting promotions and below-cost selling

Note: 'trade' in graphs includes trade and business sector

Those respondents who did comment in detail generally expressed more support for the proposal to end loss-leading/below cost selling than to restrict promotions. Most of the organisations that supported the proposals felt that there was a direct link between availability of cheap alcohol and excessive/irresponsible drinking and consequent harm. There was a feeling amongst those who expressed opposition that these proposals would restrict choice and make responsible drinkers pay in order to tackle problems caused by an irresponsible minority of drinkers.

Minimum Pricing

Most respondents commented on whether minimum retail pricing should be introduced rather than on the proposed principles on which a scheme should be established. As Figure 2 shows, two thirds (65%) of all responding organisations were in favour, while just under a quarter (23%) were opposed. Nine out of ten (90%) health organisations supported introducing minimum pricing, as did over eight out of ten (84%) local government bodies. Six out of ten (61%) trade and business sector organisations were opposed. Views amongst individual respondents were more mixed, with 49% who expressed an opinion in favour and 43% against.

Figure 2: Support for the principle of introducing minimum pricing

Figure 2: Support for the principle of introducing minimum pricing

Note: 'trade' in graphs includes trade and business sector

Those in favour generally supported the rationale put forward in the discussion paper, that the increasing affordability of alcohol is one of the main drivers in higher consumption and harm. Various reasons were given by those who expressed opposition, including that minimum pricing was just a form of taxation, it would impact on 'responsible' drinkers and people on low income, and general opposition to the government setting prices.

Most of the organisations that supported minimum retail pricing did not comment on the principles outlined in the discussion paper but those that did suggested that minimum prices should be based on alcoholic strength and should apply across both off and on sales.

What information would parents find helpful in relation to alcohol?

Many respondents who answered this question suggested that parents generally need more information and statistics about the harmful effects of alcohol misuse and/or the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption. A number also said that parents should set a good example to their children by drinking sensibly and not misusing alcohol. The idea that there should be a cultural shift promoting sensible drinking was also frequently mentioned. A number of individuals suggested that there should be more effective education about alcohol and its potentially harmful effects as part of the school curriculum (this could be linked to peer education or broader 'lifestyle' education).

These broad areas were also the most common suggestions made by organisations that responded to this question. Many organisations made detailed and comprehensive contributions to this part of the consultation.

Raising the minimum purchase age to 21 in off-sales

A clear majority of individuals (62%) responding to the consultation expressed opposition to the proposal to raise the minimum age for off-sales purchases to 21. As Figure 3 shows, the proposal was also opposed by a large majority of organisations. The only sector that had a majority of respondents in favour was the health sector (52% in favour, 36% opposed). Almost all the trade and business sector respondents (87%) were against (with the notable exception of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association) as were all nine youth organisations that responded to the discussion paper.

Figure 3: Support for raising the minimum purchase age to 21 in off-sales

Figure 3: Support for raising the minimum purchase age to 21 in off-sales

Note: 'trade' in graphs includes trade and business sector

The most common reasons that respondents gave for opposing the proposal were: that it would 'demonise' all young people, not just those who drink irresponsibly that it represented an erosion of civil liberties for young people and that the emphasis should be on enforcing current laws and using proof of age schemes to reduce under-age drinking. Most organisations that supported the proposal (such as Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems ( SHAAP) and Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams ( SAADAT)) expressed broad support for the rationale outlined in the discussion paper and saw this measure as one part of an overall strategy.

Social responsibility fee

Although the discussion paper sought views on the detail of how a social responsibility fee should be applied and to which license holders, most respondents expressed views on the principle of whether a fee should be introduced in the first place. As Figure 4 shows, there were clear differences in opinion across sectors, with health and local government organisations being strongly in favour (84% and 71% respectively) and the trade and business sector overwhelmingly opposed (82% against). Of the small number of organisations who commented on whether the fee should be applied to occasional license and other licensed premises, a majority thought it should.

Figure 4: Support for the principle of introducing a social responsibility fee

Figure 4: Support for the principle of introducing a social responsibility fee

Note: 'trade' in graphs includes trade and business sector

Few organisations in favour of the introduction of a social responsibility fee commented in detail on the possible criteria outlined in the discussion paper. However, a majority of those who responded supported all premises being subject to paying the fee and the fee being based on alcohol sales or turnover.

Opposition to a fee, in particular from trade and business sector organisations, mostly centred round views that it would be 'just another tax', that it would tax the supplier of alcohol rather than those who were misusing it, and that it could penalise all traders to compensate for the small number who allow alcohol misuse to take place.

Further restrictions on marketing material in licensed premises13

Respondents tended to comment on the principle of restricting marketing material in licensed premises rather than on the three specific proposals raised in the discussion paper. Of those who expressed an opinion, a small majority of individual respondents opposed further restrictions (52% against 48% in favour). However, as Figure 5 shows, a majority of organisations supported the principle - 56% in favour compared to 37% against. There was a clear difference in views between the health and local government sectors (respectively 92% and 71% in favour) and the trade sector (86% opposed).

Figure 5: Support for further restrictions on marketing material in licensed premises

Figure 5: Support for further restrictions on marketing material in licensed premises

Note: 'trade' in graphs includes trade and business sector

Many of those that supported this proposal did so because they felt alcohol should be treated differently from other products, or believed that restricting marketing material would discourage impulse buying and would reduce the impact of advertising on young people. Respondents who opposed the proposals gave two main reasons: restricting marketing material would restrict 'freedom of choice' and it would have little impact in reducing alcohol misuse or binge drinking.

Several producers and retailers, including whisky distilleries with visitor centres, noted that tighter restrictions on marketing material could affect their ability to market specialist products, including Scottish products.

Separate checkouts for alcohol sales

Almost two thirds (64%) of individual respondents opposed the proposal to introduce separate checkouts for alcohol sales. As Figure 6 shows, organisations were more evenly split on this proposal. While the majority of health and local government organisations who responded were in favour (76% and 64% respectively), the trade and business sector was overwhelmingly opposed (92%).

Figure 6: Support for separate checkouts for alcohol sales

Figure 6: Support for separate checkouts for alcohol sales

Note: 'trade' in graphs includes trade and business sector

Individuals and organisations opposed to separate checkouts were generally concerned about the inconvenience of separate checkouts for people buying alcohol along with their weekly grocery shop, the demonising of alcohol without necessarily reducing consumption, and the possible stigmatising effect on responsible drinkers. Most organisations in favour felt separate alcohol checkouts would be an important indicator that alcohol could no longer be treated as an ordinary commodity by retailers and consumers.

Raising the age of check out staff

Almost three-quarters (74%) of individual respondents who expressed an opinion were in favour of a minimum age of 18 for alcohol checkout staff (compared to 26% against). As Figure 7 shows, large majorities of health and local government sector organisations were in favour of this proposal (93% and 73% respectively) whilst the trade and business sector was almost evenly split with 50% of respondents in favour and 44% against.

Figure 7: Support for raising the age of checkout staff

Figure 7: Support for raising the age of checkout staff

Note: 'trade' in graphs includes trade and business sector

Most of the organisations that supported the proposal, including some trade and business sector organisations, agreed with the rationale for increasing the age to 18 outlined in the discussion paper. Some large retailers opposed the proposal pointed out that staff under the age of 18 can only sell alcohol if supervised by an older staff member, whilst several of the small retail stores noted that they have difficulty in recruiting staff who are over 18 for part-time sales jobs.