2 Scotland Now
- Scotland has an outstanding natural environment which supports a diverse range of activities and functions. The regulation of Scotland's environment is particularly influenced by the European Union and Scottish Ministers are responsible for meeting these obligations. However, Scotland's interests are represented through the UK Government negotiating position which potentially reduces the scope for the particularities of the Scottish position to be reflected.
- The marine and coastal environments around Scotland are vitally important. Ensuring the sustainable use and protection of Scotland's coasts and seas is undermined by the confusing and fragmented division of marine responsibilities between Scottish Ministers and UK Government Departments.
- Rural Scotland is an integral part of the country's economy, environment and culture. However the UK Government has a fundamentally different view from the Scottish Government on the vital issue of the future of the Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP).
2.1. Scotland is world famous for its beautiful scenery, clean environment and rich natural and cultural heritage. These natural assets bring visitors from all over the world, provide stimulus and enjoyment, and support economic activities such as tourism, agriculture, fishing and aquaculture. The natural and cultural environment is what makes rural Scotland entirely distinctive, and distinctive rural economies require individual approaches. Rural communities form a thriving, modern society dispersed over a large area.
2.2. One of the principal challenges facing Scotland relates to climate change, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to it and adapting to the changes in our environment which are already becoming apparent. Substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be necessary. The Scottish Government is setting an example internationally by introducing ambitious statutory emissions reduction targets through the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Some degree of climate change is unavoidable however, as past and present emissions impact over the next 30 to 40 years. The Scottish Government is assessing the challenges and opportunities of a changing climate and identifying priorities for action in its Climate Change Adaptation Framework which will be published by the end of 2009.
Relationship with the EU
2.3. Scotland benefits from a wealth of opportunities as part of the European Union ( EU). Whether through access to the common market for our farmers, fishermen and businesses, funding opportunities that help improve facilities in our rural communities, or the regulations that ensure that the food we produce is safe to eat, the EU impacts on day to day life across Scotland. Nowhere is this influence more apparent than in the context of Scotland's environment and rural communities, where many of the key decisions affecting Scotland's economy and stewardship of the environment are made at EU level.
2.4. Scotland's approach to aquaculture, fisheries, marine conservation, agriculture, forestry, rural development, animal health and welfare, biodiversity, waste, recycling, drinking water, protected food names and food labelling, pollution and climate change are all dependent on decisions made in international fora, including the EU and the United Nations ( UN).
2.5. Responsibility for implementing EU obligations was transferred to the Scottish Ministers under Section 53(2) (a) of the Scotland Act 1998 specifically in relation to areas within devolved competence. Foreign affairs, including participation in EU decision-making processes, are explicitly reserved to the UK. The principles underlying the general relationship between the Scottish and UK Governments are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), and in Concordats 2.
2.6. The MoU and Concordats are explicitly intended to be binding in honour only, and not to be legally binding. This leaves key decisions, such as whether a devolved Minister can speak at, or even attend, an EU Council where there is a devolved interest, at the discretion of the relevant UK Secretary of State. Views are presented to Council of Ministers meetings only via the single UK line, which the MoU and European Union Concordat envisage will have been agreed with the contribution of Scottish Ministers.
2.7. Scotland has common interests with its neighbours in the UK in some areas of EU policy, but Scotland's circumstances and challenges are often different. There is a different economic structure and environment. At an official level, the Scottish Government works with the United Kingdom's Permanent Representation ( UKREP) in Brussels, and is grateful for their assistance and support. However UKREP's role is to negotiate according to a position drawn up by the UK Government. Successive Scottish Governments have pushed hard to ensure that the UK negotiating line takes full account of Scotland's circumstances. Nevertheless, although mechanisms exist for feeding Scottish interests into the decision-making process, these can be lost or diluted during their incorporation into the UK negotiating line, even when Scotland carries the biggest share of the UK's interests. Scottish interests may also fall victim to trade-offs that the UK Government has to make at the EU negotiating table which can be based on priorities that differ from those in Scotland.
Box 1: Case Study - Fisheries Negotiations
Even in areas where Scotland has the dominant responsibility within the UK, such as in sea fisheries and marine aquaculture, Scottish Ministers are not currently permitted to lead in international negotiations. This is despite the fact that the EU's constitutional arrangements make specific provision for regions within a Member State, such as Flanders in Belgium, to represent that Member State.
Scotland is among the largest sea fishing nations in Europe and the Scottish fleet is responsible for landing 66% of the total UK volume of fish. Scotland is also the EU's largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon and is a globally significant salmon producing country in its own right.
In Autumn 2007 Scottish Ministers wrote to the UK Government asking that they assume the lead role in fisheries negotiations on behalf of the whole of the UK. The approach was rebuffed.
Scotland continues to seek the lead role in international fisheries negotiations. The unwillingness of the UK Government to accept that Scottish Ministers may speak on behalf of the UK fishing industry as a whole remains an impediment to the successful achievement of wider goals.
Climate change issues
2.8. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 introduces the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world. The Climate Change Delivery Plan sets out what needs to be done now and in the medium and long term to achieve emissions reductions to contribute to meeting the statutory targets which lie at the heart of the Act. All sectors of the economy must share in the effort. Scotland already has a thriving renewables sector, and there is a tremendous opportunity to be a world leader in green technologies such as marine energy and carbon capture and storage. There will also be a major expansion of jobs in energy efficiency products and services.
2.9. Scotland's share of global emissions is small and action needs to be part of a global effort to reduce emissions. Scotland's most important contribution at a global level will be to demonstrate strong leadership and to show that the pathway to a successful low carbon economy is achievable. There is an opportunity for Scotland to influence others in the international community to follow Scotland's lead.
2.10. Scotland cannot deliver its challenging targets by acting alone. Scotland is in turn supported and constrained by levels of ambition and policy levers at UK and EU levels. For example, the emissions reduction targets for the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the largest carbon trading scheme in the world, are set at EU level. The main responsibilities for energy policy and regulation are reserved to Westminster, but the UK Government relies on decisions that Scotland takes in permitting new sources of electricity generation. Key fiscal levers to tackle climate change, including Vehicle Excise Duty, Fuel Duty, driver licensing, speed limits on motorways and Landfill Tax are all reserved to Westminster, while responsibility for road pricing, smarter transport measures and transport infrastructure are generally devolved.
2.11. The marine and coastal waters around Scotland are vitally important to the sustainable future of the country. Scotland's coasts and seas provide food from both wild and farmed fisheries, energy and mineral resources, routes and harbours for shipping, tourism and recreational opportunities and sites of cultural and historical interest, which meet many of our economic and social needs particularly in remote rural areas. At the same time, they contain distinctive and important habitats and support a diverse range of species which need to be protected, conserved and enhanced.
2.12. Ensuring the sustainable use of Scotland's coasts and seas and protection of the resources that they contain is undermined by the confusing and fragmented division of responsibilities in the marine environment. Responsibilities are divided between Scottish Ministers and UK Government Departments and this is further complicated by a different allocation inshore from that which applies off-shore, beyond 12 nautical miles. Fishing is fully devolved out to 200 nautical miles yet responsibility for regulating oil and gas and shipping is reserved even within inshore waters. The Crown Estate (a reserved body) determines use of the seabed, and coastguard services are run by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Transport. For other sectors and responsibilities there is a complicated picture, with Scotland having executive responsibility enabling it to make decisions on marine renewables but not to legislate; and the ability to legislate on marine nature conservation and installations at sea but only out to 12 nautical miles. Inevitably all this complexity leads to gaps and fragmented management.
Box 2: Case Study - Ship to Ship Transfer of Oil
Proposals for ship to ship transfer of oil in the Forth caused widespread concern in Scotland because of the threat posed to the marine environment and to European nature protection sites designated by Scottish Ministers.
However the ability to regulate decision making was reserved (as a shipping matter) and UK Ministers had not made relevant provisions.
Since the decision was taken by Forth Ports not to proceed, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has consulted on draft regulations to control the ship-to-ship transfer of hazardous substances.
However it remains inappropriate for Scottish Ministers not to be able to prevent hazardous activity of importance to the marine environment within the 12 mile boundary and it is noteworthy that several years after the issue first surfaced there is still no effective regulatory regime.
2.13. Scotland's current Marine Bill is being taken forward against this background of a complicated reserved/devolved split. The UK Marine and Coastal Access Bill does seek to improve the consistency of marine responsibilities by giving Scottish Ministers more responsibility for nature conservation and marine planning beyond 12 nautical miles. Along with the other Devolved Administrations, Scottish Ministers have agreed to contribute to a UK Marine Policy Statement to provide greater clarity and consistency in marine decision-making in all the waters around the UK. While all this is welcome, the government of Scottish waters remains a complex and confusing picture. And the priorities determined by UK Government Departments for the exercise of reserved responsibilities in Scottish waters do not necessarily fully support sustainable economic growth in Scotland or the most effective management of marine resources.
2.14. The various devolved and reserved agencies with responsibilities for marine matters are a potential constraint to the effective management of marine resources. Scottish Ministers have established Marine Scotland to bring together responsibilities for marine research, aquaculture, fishing, compliance, nature conservation and marine research. But Scottish Ministers cannot consider any further pooling of resources and responsibilities of marine agencies, such as coastguard, health and safety and lighthouses, because they are all reserved. Similarly the Scottish Ministers are not involved in funding decisions such as for light dues.
2.15. Supporting and appropriately regulating the emergence of an innovative wind and tidal energy industry in Scottish waters will require all marine administration agencies to work effectively. Scottish Ministers are determined to ensure that Scotland is the marine renewable powerhouse of Europe, but the current fragmentation of responsibilities makes this a more challenging task.
2.16. The Scottish Government manages the quota for fish stocks and controls the activities of the Scottish fleet, including their fishing effort (days spent at sea) wherever they fish within EU limits (mainly in the North Sea, West of Scotland and Faroese waters). It can also regulate inshore fisheries by all UK vessels within the 12 mile territorial water limit around Scotland. The registration of fishing vessels is, however, a reserved function; and quota management, licensing and effort control arrangements cannot readily be adapted to Scottish needs as long as they are tied into a "one size fits all" approach to UK fisheries management. Significant barriers remain to the adoption of independent fisheries management arrangements that take proper account of the needs of Scotland's coastal communities.
2.17. The Common Fisheries Policy ( CFP) as currently operated is recognised by the European Commission itself as a failure. Micro-management from Brussels does not adequately respond to the needs of Scotland's fishing industry, which is by far the largest part of the UK industry. The future of sustainable fisheries management for the fish stocks on which Scotland's fishing sector and communities depend must lie in returning decision-making closer to communities. Only in that way is it possible to ensure that we empower those whose livelihood is directly affected by management decisions and whose active commitment to effective conservation is crucial to economic viability and growth. While the European Commission recognises that Scotland is an important fishing nation, it is the views of Member States which take precedence. With a clear, unhampered voice Scottish Ministers and Scottish fishermen would have a greater influence on the future of European fisheries policy.
2.18. Scotland's reputation as a leading fishing nation, developing innovative management strategies with stakeholder buy-in, has grown considerably in recent years. Scotland has been at the forefront of promoting moderate fishing levels and measures to support fish stock sustainability. The establishment of the conservation credits scheme has broken the mould with its adaptive management measures which incentivises conservation behaviour in fishermen. The Inquiry into the Future of Fisheries Management has brought Scotland to the forefront of development of new policies ahead of other nations in Europe. However, innovation and leadership are hamstrung by existing constitutional arrangements. Conservation credits provide a model for future fisheries management but its targets are set at EU level, where Scotland has little say.
2.19. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation states that developing aquaculture is the only way to meet surging global demand for seafood. Scotland is well placed to satisfy that demand as the EU's largest producer of farmed salmon, and to reduce Europe's dependence on seafood imports. Scotland should be able to use all the tools necessary to support our thriving and prosperous aquaculture industry to grow, including an ability directly to influence EU aquaculture policy. If we can achieve the synergies we should expect from the suitability of our coastline, the proximity of our dynamic industry to world class raw materials and sites and the excellence of our science which maintains healthy fish stocks in a sustainable environment, we should see greater economic benefit to Scotland's communities and greater social benefits to the production of healthy, omega-rich farmed fish.
2.20. Scotland has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of aquaculture with the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, reflecting our position as a world-leader in aquaculture. As an independent state, Scottish Ministers would have a greater ability to directly influence the significant EU resource dedicated to aquaculture research, and in particular could directly negotiate on European legislation which affects aquaculture, for example on access to veterinary medicines.
Agriculture and forestry issues
Common Agricultural Policy
2.21. The UK Government has a fundamentally different view from Scottish Ministers on the vital issue of the future of the Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP). This view is brought into sharp focus in EU negotiations, where Scotland's position can only be formally heard in the Council of Ministers if it aligns with the UK position.
2.22. The CAP has two so-called "Pillars". The First Pillar comprises income support for farmers delivered through the Single Farm Payment and other schemes, plus EU actions to intervene in markets for certain products. The Second Pillar consists of rural development programmes, including the 2007-13 Scotland Rural Development Programme, which are based on a common EU legislative and budgetary framework. The UK Government's official view 3, on which Devolved Administrations have never been consulted, is that the entire First Pillar of the CAP should be phased out. The future CAP would be based on the current Second Pillar, but with increased emphasis on the environment at the expense of the other elements of rural development (such as economic development and community projects).
2.23. Scottish Ministers accept that First Pillar CAP payments, including the Single Farm Payment, need to be reformed and improved for the period after 2013. However, if the UK Government's model for the future of the First Pillar were to be adopted by the EU, large portions of Scottish agriculture would find their viability seriously jeopardised, leading to falling production and potentially land abandonment. About 85% of Scotland falls under the EU's category of "Less Favoured" agricultural land, where profitability is by definition lower than on better quality land. The proportion of "Less Favoured" land is considerably lower elsewhere in the UK.
2.24. The UK Government position on the Second Pillar of the CAP also differs from that of Scottish Ministers. The Second Pillar is designed to ensure delivery of public goods where there is market failure. Whilst environmental public goods are an important part of the Second Pillar, the UK Government position fails to take account of other rural public goods which are important for Scotland, including the maintenance of flourishing communities in remote areas.
2.25. The creation of areas of woodland delivers a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits. Trees play a significant role in fighting climate change; Scotland's forests currently lock up around 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, reducing the volume of this greenhouse gas in the environment. Increased areas of woodland also support local businesses and farm diversification, and provide recreation and conservation benefits.
Box 3: Case Study - Creation of Woodland
Scottish Ministers have recognised the benefits of creating areas of woodland, and have set an ambitious target of 25 per cent woodland cover in Scotland by the second half of the century. Scotland is therefore keen to use every lever possible to encourage woodland creation across Scotland. However, the latest EU Rural Development Regulation, implemented in 2007, capped the intervention rate for woodland creation.
This limits the maximum amount of financial support Scottish Ministers can give to woodland creation projects, making it harder to encourage landowners to undertake them. When this regulation was being negotiated, the support of woodland creation was not as high a priority for the UK Government as it was for Scotland. Although our concerns were partially incorporated into the UK negotiating position, this was not adopted as a red-line issue for the UK Government.
If Scotland had been negotiating as an independent Member State, it would have been able to treat this issue with the importance the Scottish Government believed it deserved.
Environmental protection issues
2.26. The EU, UN and other international fora provide the main impetus for determining strategic policy direction and (in the case of the EU) legislative measures on biodiversity, and on species and habitat protection. As for other issues, Scotland's interests are represented through the UK Government negotiating position, and Scotland cannot take the opportunity to ally itself with other similarly minded states in responding to EU proposals if it should disagree with the UK line. Furthermore, UK-wide reporting reduces the scope for the particularities of the Scottish position to be set out and reflected.
2.27. Most issues relating to the protection of the environment are devolved to Scotland. But there are a few notable exceptions, which compromise Scottish Ministers' abilities to take a fully strategic and thorough approach to managing Scotland's environment.
2.28. Scotland has made a good start towards becoming a zero waste society. Recycling rates are increasing, and Scotland has met its share of the 2010 EU Landfill Directive target 18 months ahead of schedule. To continue this journey towards a society where all resources are valued, re-used and not misused, Scotland needs the tools which are missing from the current devolution settlement. This is particularly important in starting to address the top of the waste hierarchy - prevention and reduction. This will inevitably involve designing in reusability and recyclability, in such a way that products can be re-used and recycled to accord with Scottish circumstances. Responsibility for regulations on product standards and design, and the sale and supply of goods, would be vital for this.
2.29. Product specification (with limited exceptions, notably to do with food), legislation on design and labelling regulation are reserved. This potentially restricts Scotland's efforts to tackle some of the major environmental issues like conserving resources, cutting waste and reducing carbon emissions, for example, through setting legislative standards to improve the recycled content, recyclability, "eco-design" or energy efficiency of particular products, or through labelling to help consumers make informed choices about "buying green". This reservation also covers the essential requirements of packaging, and stands in the way of Scotland being able to regulate excessive packaging more strictly.
2.30. More widely, the various reservations for trade and industry have led to difficulties in even establishing statistics for the Scottish market, for example packaging volumes. Without the bare minimum of statistics, it is not possible to run producer responsibility schemes separately for Scotland. This stops Scottish Ministers from improving rates of recycling by requiring producers to pay for their own waste rather than casting the burden on to local authorities and, ultimately, the council taxpayer.
2.31. Various reservations are detrimental to the optimum handling of waste in Scotland. For example, health and safety issues are reserved. This includes health and safety relating to waste (such as aspects of waste management and definitions of hazardous material).
2.32. Without responsibility for health and safety, Scotland can explore but cannot make statutory improvements to health and safety in the waste management industry, which is acknowledged as having a poor health and safety record.
2.33. The reservation of transfrontier shipment of waste, because it relates to import and export, means the waste shipment regime is not a responsibility of Scottish Ministers. There is little Scotland can do to develop a more stringent regime which would prevent inappropriate wastes being sent to countries where they may be poorly disposed of, as opposed to being recycled here, with the resulting environmental and employment benefits.
2.34. The reserved nature of marine pollution, and of oil and gas, makes it difficult for Scotland to keep its seas clean. For example, litter arising from ships is a reserved matter and regulations to prevent its arising cannot be made by Scottish Ministers . Even in those limited areas where Scotland does have responsibilities, such as regulating the disposal of naturally occurring radioactive material, a by product of oil and gas drilling, Scotland is unable to negotiate directly on key international agreements, such as OSPAR, which set policy and regulatory frameworks.
Box 4: Case Study - Landfill Tax
Landfill Tax is a tax on the disposal of waste. It aims to encourage waste producers to produce less waste, recover more value from waste, for example through recycling or composting, and to use more environmentally friendly methods of waste disposal. The Landfill Tax, which is a UK Government tax, has been in place since 1996, and plays a key part in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill by local authorities and businesses, meeting EU obligations and domestic targets on landfill reduction and recycling, and encouraging private sector investment in infrastructure other than landfill to treat waste.
Landfill Tax raises around Â£1 billion a year across the UK. Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures for 2007-08 4 indicate that around Â£83 million of that is from Scotland.
Making Landfill Tax a devolved matter would provide opportunity to take an integrated approach to delivering waste policy to achieve a zero waste society. For example, Scotland is currently leading on a project extending across the UK on the possibility of introducing more bans on material going to landfill. A key issue under consideration is whether landfill bans as a policy lever will be necessary to achieve Scotland's more ambitious zero waste goals in addition to escalating land fill tax driven by less ambitious UK targets. Without control of the suite of policy levers this could lead to a sub optimal approach having to be adopted by Scottish Ministers with greater costs to the Scottish economy.
Water Framework Directive
2.35. Scotland has proved that it can implement EU obligations effectively, proportionately and responsibly. In particular, Scotland is recognised across Europe as a major player in the development and implementation of the Water Framework Directive.
2.36. Scotland's success is built around close engagement with water users to ensure the correct balance between sustainable growth and the future protection of our water environment. At a domestic level this was facilitated by the introduction of primary legislation and the identification of key 'responsible authorities' to play a leading part in the implementation process. Throughout this process Scotland's best interests for a greener environment have been promoted through collaboration and pro-active participation at a European level.
2.37. Scotland continues to be at the forefront of influencing European policy on implementing the Water Framework Directive, playing an important role in a range of working groups established by the European Commission. This collaboration and early integration has enabled the Scottish Government to shape the delivery of Water Framework Directive objectives and river basin management planning framework to deliver ambitious objectives for Scotland's water environment in a pragmatic, proportionate and cost-effective way.
2.38. This proven success demonstrates Scotland's potential to work effectively within and provide leadership across the EU in all areas.
2.39. Rural Scotland, covering 95% of the land area and 18% of the population, is an integral part of the country's economy, environment and culture.
2.40. Agricultural land and property benefit from tax exemptions in the form of relief both from inheritance tax and from non-domestic rates. Nevertheless, inflexible tax rules can impact negatively on rural areas. For example, the treatment of rental monies as investment income can inhibit the letting of farmland. Stamp Duty Land Tax is likewise an additional cost on new leases which has to be paid by the prospective tenants. These add to the hurdles new entrants face in getting established in farming. Land taxation also has a major influence on forestry and can act as a disincentive to actively manage woodlands and bring timber to the market. Fiscal autonomy would allow Scotland to better align land taxation to achievement of land use priorities.
2.41. In Scotland it is crucial to take into account the differential impact that national policy decisions can have on remote and rural communities in order to explore more flexible options.
2.42. For example, under the current devolution settlement, fuel taxation is a reserved matter. Current EU law allows Member States to apply for a derogation to reduce fuel duty in rural areas to offset the additional costs of road fuels in these areas. While this option has already been used in France, Portugal and Greece, the UK Government has not taken similar action to address high fuel prices in our remote and island communities. Requests from Scottish Ministers for a reduced rate of fuel duty, similar to that in Corsica, have been rejected by the UK Government.
2.43. Direct access to the EU and greater fiscal responsibility would allow Scottish Ministers to request a more equitable approach, with a view to ensuring that all parts of Scotland are able to share in the benefits of sustainable economic growth. A general ability to vary fuel duty levels could also allow haulage vehicles using forestry roads to benefit from reduced rates while operating within the forest, and encourage the construction of haul routes to avoid rural communities and fragile public highways.
Box 5: Case Study - Remote and Rural Fuel Prices
Petrol and diesel prices in rural Scotland and in the islands are significantly higher than in other parts of the UK with a disproportionate, negative effect on the economies of rural and island communities.
For example on 4 October 2009 the average price of 1 litre of unleaded petrol 5 was 103.4p in Edinburgh and 112.9p in Ullapool.
Individuals and businesses in these areas face a higher cost of living than those in urban areas as a result simply of where they live: a point which is further exacerbated by the fewer alternatives to private vehicles and greater distances often travelled.
While the level of duty paid by those purchasing petrol and diesel in these areas is the same as elsewhere in the UK, as VAT is levied on the after duty price of petrol and diesel, this means that these communities pay more tax per litre of fuel than anywhere else in the country.
2.44. Scottish Ministers recognise the vital importance of lifeline ferry services in supporting Scotland's island communities. Following the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, a study on Road Equivalent Tariff ( RET) as the basis for future ferry fares was commissioned. The pilot exercise to establish the benefits of RET commenced on 19 October 2008. It will run for 2_ years on all the Western Isles to mainland routes, including Coll and Tiree. This will allow sufficient time for a robust evaluation of the impacts of RET to inform decisions on the possible future roll-out of RET across the Clyde and Hebrides and Northern Isles networks. This is an example of devolved responsibilities being used in a way that supports more remote communities.
Food and Drink
2.45. Scotland's natural heritage supports significant numbers of jobs, not only in the traditional primary industries but also in manufacturing sectors such as whisky. Many of these industries provide valuable employment, particularly in rural areas.
2.46. Overseas food and drink exports from Scotland are worth Â£5 billion a year, and whisky is the top exporter for Scotland. The current system of alcohol taxation is, however, a historical anomaly in need of urgent review.
2.47. The alcohol content of Scotch Whisky is taxed more heavily than that of wine or beer. Following the 2009 Budget, the same amount of alcohol served as Scotch is taxed 19% more than wine, 37% more than beer and 39% more than fortified wine.
2.48. The UK system therefore fails to recognise the position of Scotland's whisky industry and the premium products it makes. Moreover, in the current system, 4% ABV beer continues to be more heavily taxed than 7.5% ABV cider. This not only fails to incentivise producers to make low alcohol beers and lagers to help protect and improve public health, but also fails to give consumers consistent messages about the alcohol content of alcoholic drinks.