THE GREAT BOOZE TAX LOOP­HOLE

SNP’s con­tro­ver­sial new min­i­mum price law al­lows cut-price deals to con­tinue

Scottish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Michael Black­ley Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

move that will take the cheap­est bot­tle of wine to £4.69.

But de­tailed guid­ance pub­lished by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has re­vealed that some cus­tomers will be able to find a way round pay­ing the min­i­mum unit price.

It con­firms that on­line and tele­phone sales, as well as ‘click and col­lect’ pur­chases, will be ex­empt if the al­co­hol is despatched from out­side Scot­land.

It also re­veals that cheap booze can still be of­fered as part of ‘meal deals’ – as long as the to­tal price, in­clud­ing food, ex­ceeds the min­i­mum unit price.

Loy­alty re­ward vouch­ers can also con­tinue to be of­fered to cut the cost of al­co­hol. But op­po­nents said Turn to Page 4 A CON­TRO­VER­SIAL new law to raise the price of al­co­hol is filled with loop­holes which will al­low cut-price deals to con­tinue. From May 1, no al­co­hol can be sold in Scot­tish shops or bars for any less than 50p per unit – a

that if the scheme – which will mean a four­pack of 500ml cans of beer will cost at least £4 and a bot­tle of whisky will not be sold for less than £15 – can­not be tight­ened up, it should be scrapped.

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive pub­lic health spokesman An­nie Wells said: ‘We sup­ported min­i­mum pric­ing on the ba­sis that it was legally sound.

‘It would ap­pear from this that there are a num­ber of loop­holes which cast a shadow over the whole pol­icy.

‘An­other of our stip­u­la­tions was a sunset clause, which would see the law scrapped if proved not to be work­ing.

‘If the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment can’t tighten up what does and doesn’t ap­ply, this clause may well need to be in­voked.’

The new guid­ance was pub­lished yes­ter­day to in­form re­tail­ers of what is ex­pected from them when the new law comes into force.

It states that the new law ap­plies to all al­co­hol ‘despatched from within Scot­land’, such as in shops and bars.

It says that busi­nesses will need to en­sure that on­line and tele­phone sales are not sold be­low the 50p min­i­mum unit price if the al­co­hol is ‘despatched within Scot­land’.

How­ever, it goes on to state: ‘If al­co­hol is pur­chased on­line or by tele­phone in Scot­land and despatched from out­with Scot­land, whether that be the rest of the UK or in­ter­na­tion­ally, then min­i­mum pric­ing will not ap­ply.

‘In re­la­tion to “click and col­lect” fa­cil­i­ties, these fa­cil­i­ties are act­ing as a post box/col­lec­tion point rather than a despatch point.

‘The point of despatch would be where the goods have been despatched from to the “click and col­lect” fa­cil­i­ties.’

It also states that re­ward points and vouch­ers can con­tinue to be used on al­co­hol sales on the con­di­tion that the points re­deemed have an ‘equiv­a­lent cash value’ that is not be­low the min­i­mum price of the al­co­holic prod­uct.

Cus­tomers will also still be able to ben­e­fit from ‘meal deals’, such as a main course, side and a bot­tle of wine for £10.

The guid­ance says that, in these deals, ‘the low­est price of the pro­mo­tion would be the min­i­mum price that would ap­ply to the al­co­hol if sold on its own’.

Ewan MacDonald-Rus­sell, head of pol­icy at the Scot­tish Re­tail Con­sor­tium (SRC), said: ‘The SRC has been en­gaged in dis­cus­sions with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment since 2016 on how to rea­son­ably im­ple­ment a suc­cess­ful min­i­mum unit price (MUP) for al­co­hol in Scot­land. We strongly urged the Gov­ern­ment to use the Home Of­fice duty plus VAT guid­ance pro­vi­sions when es­tab­lish­ing how to im­ple­ment the scheme, and we were pleased that ap­proach has been taken.

‘We also raised the is­sue of cross-Bor­der sales, but recog­nise the pro­vi­sions of MUP only ap­ply to li­censed premises in Scot­land.

‘We will con­tinue to en­gage closely with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in the com­ing weeks to en­sure the dis­rup­tion to cus­tomers is as min­i­mal as pos­si­ble.’

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment se­cured sup­port at Holy­rood for its min­i­mum pric­ing plans in 2012 but faced a long le­gal bat­tle af­ter be­ing chal­lenged by the Scotch Whisky As­so­ci­a­tion.

It was even­tu­ally able to go ahead af­ter the Supreme Court ruled last Novem­ber that it was le­gal.

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: ‘Min­i­mum unit pric­ing, which will be im­ple­mented on May 1, 2018, will save hun­dreds of lives and lead to thou­sands fewer al­co­hol-re­lated hospi­tal ad­mis­sions in Scot­land.

‘The im­pact of min­i­mum unit pric­ing will be mon­i­tored as part of the wide-rang­ing in­de­pen­dent eval­u­a­tion pro­gramme, which in­cludes re­search ex­am­in­ing how al­co­hol is pur­chased and the eco­nomic ef­fect on the in­dus­try.’

‘A shadow over the whole pol­icy’

‘Loop­holes’: Tory An­nie Wells

Way to beat rules: Meal deal of­fers

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