Alcohol advertising and promotion consultation: stakeholder engagement summary – 28 February 2023

Minutes from the ministerial roundtable with sponsorship stakeholders on 28 February 2023 to discuss the consultation on potential restrictions to alcohol advertising and promotion.

Attendees and apologies

  • Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport
  • Karen MacNee, Deputy Director, Health Improvement, Scottish Government
  • Scottish Government officials
  • Creative Scotland 
  • Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society 
  • Edinburgh International Festival
  • Festivals Edinburgh 
  • GRM Marketing 
  • Music Venue Trust 
  • Scottish Music Industry Association
  • Scottish Premier Football League 
  • Scottish Racing 
  • Scottish Rugby Union
  • Scottish Sports Association 
  • Scottish Tourism Alliance 
  • SportScotland 
  • The Portman Group
  • The V and A 
  • Traditional Arts Culture Scotland 
  • Culture Counts (remote)
  • DF Concerts (remote)
  • Event Scotland (remote)
  • Scottish Football Association (remote)

Items and actions

The Minister thanked attendees for their time and opened the meeting with an explanation of the purpose of the roundtable. Officials then provided an overview of the consultation.

It was noted by attendees that alcohol sponsorship was a relatively small percentage of total revenue however, combined with other recent impacts on industry, it was felt that this could lead to a “death by a thousand cuts” situation.

Attendees felt that the consultation had already had a “chilling effect” across industries and that the proposed restrictions could be improved by being more targeted.

The Minister noted these concerns and asked if more detail could be provided on the perceived “chilling effect”.

Attendees noted that public sector grants and other sources of funding for cultural events had decreased significantly during the last decade, which had led to organisations being pushed to a more commercial model. It was also noted that some organisations had stopped receiving sponsorship funding from some industries due to reputational risk (e.g. oil and gas) who had previously been relied upon. It was felt by some attendees that the alcohol industry were the only major industry left who could provide the necessary level of support.

Attendees noted that sponsorship funding from the alcohol industry had been used to provide discounted tickets and other community benefits including education programmes.

The Minister noted these points.

It was felt by attendees that not all alcohol manufacturers should be considered the same and neither should all events. Attendees said that there can be big differences between audiences at different events and the types of alcohol that are appealing. 

The Minister acknowledged that it is hard to untangle these issues but that it is clear that Scotland has an established unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

The Minister stressed that this is a complex area and that there is no intention to harmfully impact industry.

The Minister also reiterated the intention to protect children and young people and those in recovery. 

The importance of sport in Scottish society was highlighted by attendees. It was noted that sporting organisations were willing to play their part in reducing alcohol harm (e.g. help spread responsible drinking messaging).

Concerns were raised about the scope and scale of the proposals and the potential impacts on communities and club sport across Scotland. Attendees also felt that sponsorship needed to be clearly defined in order to help determine any potential exemptions.

The Minister noted the points made and stated that she is acutely aware of these particular issues because of the constituency area she represents.

Attendees felt that some of the proposals were disproportionate and the evidence provided within the consultation not clear enough. Attendees were keen to work with SG to strengthen the current regulatory code. There was a request for continued constructive engagement with stakeholders on these proposals going forward. Along with a plea not to “hamstring” sport by making it harder to better access community sport across Scotland.

The Minister confirmed that she is keen to maintain constructive engagement with all stakeholders.

Attendees did not believe there was a clear evidence base to support a link between alcohol marketing and alcohol harm. It was also highlighted that industries are still recovering from the pandemic.

The Minister confirmed that there will be further consultation on any proposed restrictions going forward, as well as lead-in time before any potential implementation of restrictions.

It was noted that sponsorship is essential to a large amount of events and tourism across Scotland and therefore any restrictions could lead to knock-on effects (e.g. loss of jobs in rural areas). Attendees felt a broader look at the potential economic harms will be critical in order to ensure Scotland remains competitive when bidding to hold major events in the future.

The Minister noted the points made and agreed that Scotland has a great history in hosting major events and that she hopes that will continue.

The Minister said that economic data from attendees would help us to further quantify potential economic impacts but understood the issues around commercial sensitivities.

Attendees felt that the impact restrictions could have on grassroots sport could have knock on effects on other health conditions e.g. diabetes. They also believed that all attendees could work together to make a change to ensure there are no unintended consequences.

It was suggested that there was no proven link between alcohol advertising and consumption and that it was speculation to suggest people in recovery could be triggered by alcohol advertising. It was also highlighted that major events could cease to exist without alcohol sponsorship and that this could have knock on effects on Scottish artists (e.g. musicians).

Attendees felt that the restrictions could have a significant impact on the grassroots music industry. It was suggested that a levy on larger venues could help provide grassroots support. 

The Minister noted the points made and agreed that we need to consider alternative sources of income for cultural sector.

The Minister confirmed that the intention is to look at the “whole system”.

Attendees stated that there is a difference between sponsorship and advertising. It was suggested that there was a huge loss of jobs in France following the introduction of restrictions. Attendees said that alcohol sponsorship can be used to develop projects to support vulnerable people (e.g. people with mental health issues). It was suggested that the current licensing laws force people to drink to a specific timeframe.

The Minister noted the points made.

Attendees suggested no and low alcohol could be an opportunity to work collaboratively. 

The Minister asked all attendees to include any potential exemptions or alternative solutions in their consultation responses.

It was suggested by attendees that the brands that appeal most to children and young people are not being heavily advertised or promoted. Attendees added that drug problems exist without any advertising or promotion.

The Minister accepted that this is a complex issue and that the SG needs to think carefully about how to resolve it. 

The Minister added that there is no direct link between education and behaviour and that the intention of the SG is to make it easier for people in Scotland to make healthier decisions.

Attendees noted that there are differences between large sporting events and local smaller community sports, they feel that the evidence within the consultation focuses on big sporting events. Concerns were raised again around potential impacts to community sport activity.

The Minister noted these points and urged stakeholders to respond in full to the consultation highlighting these potential impacts.

The Minister also committed to continue engaging with attendees post-consultation.

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