The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has demanded a level playing field in the promotion of alcohol sales north of the border, claiming that the Scottish Executive is unfairly targeting the pub sector.
Since the beginning of April licensed premises have operated with guidelines ensuring the responsible promotion of alcoholic drinks under a partnership agreement between 16 trade associations. The agreement operates under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, even though the legislation won't be introduced until 2009.
SBPA chief executive Patrick Browne said: "This decision by the Executive to delay the publication of the long-awaited research until after the elections smacks of one rule for the offâ'sales sector and another for the on-sales sector."
The new guidelines were introduced to encourage social responsibility in the sale of alcohol in Scotland. Although not strictly enforceable by law until the act comes into force in 2009, they ban eight types of promotion for the on-trade, while just four are banned for the off-trade. As a result, supermarkets and off-licences will be able to run promotions such as "buy one, get one free", while pubs will not.
In a pubs and bars market hard hit by falling beer sales, Browne said that competing with the prices the off-trade could offer would be made "very difficult" by the delay. "We insisted at the time the research was commissioned] there should be a level playing field, but [the Scottish Executive] are not doing that," he said. "We are very disappointed."
By Christopher Walton
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