ALCOHOL advertising in public spaces faces a ban with sponsorship of major sporting and cultural events by drinks brands brought to an end under sweeping plans in a new report for the Scottish Government.

Compiled by prominent academics and health experts, the report also calls on ministers to press the UK Government to introduce curbs on TV alcohol advertising before 11pm and restrict its promotion in newspapers and magazines to publications aimed at adults.

The recommendations by national campaign group Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) come 18 months after the Scottish Government tasked the group with coming up with a range of policy options around drink advertising and sponsorship and how they would be implemented.

Loading article content

Read more: Herald View - The problem with an alcohol ad ban

AFS said the proposals "outline how the Scottish Government can reduce the unacceptably high levels of alcohol marketing that children and young people are exposed to".

But leading drinks firms and industry bodies have said the plans comes at time of when statistical evidence in Scotland shows under-age alcohol misuse in decline, including a comparison with France where it is claimed youth consumption is increasing despite marketing restrictions.

As well as removing alcohol marketing from public spaces such as billboards, sporting grounds and public transport, the plans would remove sponsorship from many national events.

Both the Edinburgh International Festival and The Fringe receive backing from drinks' firms, while the Six Nations, Ryder Cup and events such as T In The Park and Glasgow's Summer Nights concert series are also sponsored by the alcohol industry.

Other proposals include restrict cinema alcohol advertising to 18-certificate films, putting barriers to marketing on social networking sites as well as recommending that ministers set up "an independent task force on alcohol marketing to remove the regulatory role of the alcohol industry".

Read more: Herald View - The problem with an alcohol ad ban

It has also been compared by the team behind the report with public health policies such as the smoking ban and minimum unit pricing. Where Scottish ministers have no power over issues which may be reserved, the report calls on then to lobby the UK Government for change.

The plans come as ministers get set to roll out a new national alcohol strategy which will guide Scotland's legislative approach to liquor for several years.

Alison Douglas, AFS chief executive, said: “Children are seeing and hearing positive messages about alcohol when waiting for the school bus, watching the football, at the cinema or using social media. We need to create environments that foster positive choices and support children’s healthy development.

"We hope ministers will respond to this report and the groundswell of support for effective alcohol marketing restrictions in Scotland.”

Professor Gerard Hastings, one of the group members and international expert on social marketing, said: “Self-regulation does not work; it will not control dishonest banks, over-claiming MPs or profit-driven multinational drinks companies. And yet we continue to rely on it to protect our children from alcohol marketing.

"Scotland now has a chance to grasp this nettle and show how independent statutory regulation of marketing can provide our young people the protection they deserve."

Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland Tam Baillie added: “I strongly support this report. The extent of the actions we take now are a good measure of the value we place on our children for the future.”

Read more: Herald View - The problem with an alcohol ad ban

But a Diageo spokesman said: “There is clear evidence that the strong alcohol marketing regulations in Scotland are working and must continue to be rigorously enforced.

"The prohibitions suggested in this report would be catastrophic for the growing craft brewing and distilling sector in Scotland which is making such a positive contribution to local economies and communities across Scotland.”

Dave Roberts, director general of the Alcohol Information Partnership, added: "This report from the anti alcohol lobby is offering a solution to a problem that is already reducing.

"These policy proposals are stuck in the past and fail to acknowledge the significant changes in consumption over recent years.

"At the same time as the use of social media is growing alcohol consumption among young people is actually falling."

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health and Sport, said: "This is an interesting contribution to the debate on alcohol policy in Scotland and we will consider it carefully.

"We've been clear that more should be done to protect children from unsuitable advertising. However, the regime governing broadcast advertising is reserved to Westminster and as a result we have pressed the UK Government on this issue."