THE Scottish Government has launched a consultation on proposals that would see alcohol marketing banned on outdoor billboards and phased out of sports sponsorship in Scotland.

Retailers would also face restrictions on the promotion of alcohol in-store under plans aimed at reducing "the appeal of alcohol to young people" and cutting overall consumption.

The report states that people in recovery from alcohol dependency have told researchers that they found in-store promotions "triggering" and had to send neighbours to get their shopping to avoid temptation.

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Although discount deals such as multibuy offers are already prohibited for alcohol, shops and supermarkets are currently able to promote sales through end-of-aisle displays, at checkouts, near exits and entrances, and through signage or window displays.

Evidence has found that end-of-aisle promotions for beer, wine and spirits boosted sales by between 23 and 46 per cent by encouraging "impulse or unplanned" purchases.

The Scottish Government said it is "considering whether the restrictions around the alcohol display area need to be tightened".

This could include forcing smaller retailers who display alcohol on shelves behind the counter to place the bottles "in a closed cupboard, like tobacco products", or in larger outlets - such as supermarkets - requiring that alcohol be kept near "near the back of the shop away from entrances, exits or checkouts".

The report adds that "this could significantly limit how alcohol could be sold" and that "further work will need to be undertaken on the impact to small retailers before any potential restrictions were introduced".

The proposals also outline suggestions such as banning mixed aisles of alcohol and non-alcohol products to "limit the visibility of alcohol to only those who make a specific decision to buy alcohol" and prohibiting window displays for alcohol to "reduce the visibility of alcohol from outside the shop itself".

In Ireland, where new restrictions on alcohol marketing came into force in 2020, shops selling alcohol and other products are required to store alcohol in a single closed storage unit behind the counter which is not accessible to the public and means the products are kept out of sight except when a sale is taking place.

The report also sets out options such as a ban of the use of alcohol brand logos on sports clothing, trophies, items worn by players or managers, and within sports venues to "create a more family friendly environment" and "weaken the link between influential figures and teams with alcohol brands".

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Outdoor advertising of alcohol - including on billboards, buses, and in public transport hubs - could also be banned to reduce the opportunities for children, young people, and those in recovery to be "exposed to outdoor advertising indiscriminately as they travel around their neighbourhoods, villages, towns and cities".

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “We are constantly bombarded by alcohol marketing and it affects us all. It makes alcohol consumption seem normal and desirable when the reality is it is responsible for one in 15 of all deaths in Scotland.

“Children and young people, and people in recovery are particularly affected. They tell us that they see alcohol marketing everywhere and it prevents them being able to fully live and thrive in their communities.

“We are pleased to see that the Scottish Government have today published their consultation on introducing restrictions on alcohol marketing which covers a broad range of marketing tactics including sponsorship of sports and events, outdoor advertising, branded merchandise and how alcohol is sold in shops.

"Scotland has the powers to act in all of these areas. This is an opportunity for us to be ambitious and to put people’s right to health before company profits by introducing restrictions.“

Public Health Minister, Maree Todd MSP said: “There is clear evidence that adverts which glamorise drinking can encourage young people to drink alcohol and have a detrimental impact on those in recovery from problem alcohol use.”

However, the proposals were described as "entirely disproportionate" by the Portman Group, which regulates alcohol labelling, packaging and promotion in the UK. 

Its CEO, Matt Lambert, said targeted health-led interventions were required for "the small minority that drink to harmful levels". 

He said: “The majority of adults in Scotland are moderate or non-drinkers and it is encouraging that binge drinking, alcohol-related crime and underage drinking have all significantly declined.

"These recommendations are entirely disproportionate and inhibit consumers’ ability to make informed choices, and restrict the ability to trade for producers and retailers who ensure that alcohol is sold responsibly."

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said retailers "take their duty to sell alcoholic responsibly seriously" including implementing minimum pricing legislation, but already have to comply with a "complex and onerous licensing system".

He added: “We are concerned the proposals announced today will have a significant impact on businesses with no clear evidence of measurable health benefits.  

"With retailers and consumers under intense cost pressures we would question whether these rather nebulous and unclear proposals are a proportionate intervention.”

Colin Borland, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said: “We know from previous rounds of licensing law reform that mandatory changes to retail premises are particularly difficult and expensive for smaller, independent traders.  

"And that last round of changes wasn’t imposed against the backdrop of a pandemic having exhausted businesses’ financial reserves, rocketing inflation squeezing margins out of existence and £4billion of emergency Covid debt needing to be repaid.

“However well-intentioned, this is not the right time to be spending government time and effort debating measures like these. All efforts should instead be focussed on dealing with getting local businesses and our communities safely to the other side of the economic crisis.”

The public consultation will run until March 9 2023.