THE GREAT BOOZE TAX LOOPHOLE
SNP’s controversial new minimum price law allows cut-price deals to continue
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