A LEADING expert on liquor laws has warned that beefed up restrictions on the sale of alcohol will be a "short leap" to tobacco-style health warnings and plain packaging on bottles.
Jack Cummins, a former state advisor on licensing laws, compared demands for the Scottish Government to "airbrush" alcohol advertising from websites and public spaces to the kind of action taken by a "liberal regime" such as that "enjoyed by the citizens of North Korea".
A new report for Government ministers has called for curbs on the promotion of alcohol in all public places and an end to its association with events like the Edinburgh Festival and the Six Nations.
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Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) has called for restrictions on television, cinema, print and social media alcohol advertising.
Meanwhile, leading players in Scotland’s burgeoning craft beer market raised concerns that the plans would mean premium products would be lumped in with the down-market beverages commonly associated with binge drinking.
Mr Cummins, one of the country’s most prominent figures in liquor law, said that while moves to prevent children from being inappropriately introduced to alcohol deserved Scottish Government attention, the proposals it commissioned “go well beyond that laudable objective”.
He added: “It’s not difficult to see where this outright demonisation of alcohol is designed to lead us. There are currently legislative controls on the display, availability and promotion of alcohol, as well as pricing.
“In the drive to airbrush alcohol from public spaces, it’s a short leap towards tobacco-style health warnings on bottles and cans, plain packaging and tobacco-style shop cabinets.”
Paul Miller, chief executive of craft brewers and gin distillers Eden Mill, oversees a firm whose products are a mainstay of the St Andrews tourism trail and promoted at Scottish football grounds.
The firm also sponsors Scottish Rugby and events including the Summer Sessions at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park.
He said: “Our aim is to encourage greater appreciation of premium quality gin, beer and whisky, not to encourage people to drink anymore than they do.
“These proposals would remove an opportunity we have to promote that and instead gives rise to more functional alcoholic consumption.”
One independent Scottish brewer, who declined to be named, added: “Some of the sponsorship our sector is involved in is the local fair, the captain’s golf day and these are the victims of the unintended consequences of such proposals.
“Where does these plans sit with the promotion of our sector by the Scottish Enterprise and other agencies?”
Monica Lennon MSP, said the Alcohol Focus Scotland plans should be a "catalyst for action" and she called on SNP ministers to "get on with the job of refreshing Scotland’s alcohol strategy and the recommendations in this report".