Scotland: Strong public support for more curbs on alcohol advertising
Source: The National
October 26th, 2015
MINISTERS are under pressure to back a ban on alcohol advertising near schools after research carried out by MSPs suggested there was considerable public sympathy for the policy.
The proposal was backed by 78 per cent of those who responded to a survey carried out by Holyrood’s health committee.
Its findings will inform the views of members of the cross-party body taking evidence on the Alcohol Bill, introduced into the Scottish Parliament by Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson.
Simpson wants to prohibit the advertising of alcohol within 200 metres of schools, nurseries and play parks, and to ban alcohol advertising at public events where most people taking part are children or where the event is aimed at children. The latter ban was supported by 83 per cent of the 543 people who took part in the survey last month. Under his plans, those breaching the advertising regulations would be fined.
“The proposals with the strongest support were the ban on advertising near venues used by children and the ban on sponsorship of events targeted at children,” the survey report said.
The introduction of drinking banning orders, which would prohibit someone convicted of an alcohol-related offence from going into a pub for up to two years, was also popular, with support from 75 per cent.
Ministers are keen to combat problem drinking in Scotland. The country has one of the fastest growing rates of liver disease in the world, while in six out of 10 violent crimes the offender was under the influence of alcohol, according to last year’s Scottish Crime and Justice Survey.
The Scottish Government has tried to bring in curbs on cheap alcohol, and in 2012 legislation to introduce a 50p per unit minimum price for alcohol was passed by the Scottish Parliament. However, this was challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association, which claims it breaches European law. The matter is currently before the European Court of Justice, which will issue a preliminary ruling later this year.
Simpson last night welcomed the public backing for his proposals. “I believe that with the minimum unit pricing, and the legislation still being suspended in the European Court, this bill is even more important,” he said.
“With Scotland’s alcohol consumption per head among highest in the world, we cannot afford to wait any longer on this issue.”
However, the drinks industry and licensing sector are against the advertising crackdown, while the Law Society of Scotland has also raised concerns.
The Portman Group, which represents drinks producers, said its members followed voluntary guidelines by not advertising within 100 metres of schools and that a statutory ban would be costly and unnecessary. Under the code, drinks companies should not sponsor individuals, activities, events or groups primarily aimed at under-18s.
In its submission to the committee, the National Licensing Standards Officers Group raised the prospect of a creche moving to an area within 200 metres of an existing licensed premise. “Does this require the premises to cease a practice it had been previously allowed to do?” it asked.
The Law Society of Scotland said the ban could end up criminalising parents wearing a football or rugby top carrying a drinks slogan while taking children to school.
Public Health Minister Maureen Watt: “We are all too aware of the impact of alcohol advertising on young people and believe this could and should be reduced.”
Members of the health committee are due to continue taking evidence on the Bill, and the Parliament will vote on it in February.