In late October, SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands Emma Roddick urged the new Chancellor to freeze alcohol duty in order to protect the Scotch whisky industry.

In response, SHAAP Director, Elinor Jayne, commented:

“It is disappointing that Emma Roddick MSP has asked for a freeze on alcohol duty to be reinstated.

Previous freezes have increased the affordability of alcohol and have resulted in increased alcohol-related harms. The University of Sheffield has estimated that cuts and freezes to alcohol duty from 2012-2019 have led to over 250 additional deaths and 4,500 hospital admissions in Scotland.

Alcohol harm is currently one of Scotland’s most pervasive public health issues – with 1,245 alcohol-specific deaths in 2021 and 35,124 alcohol-related hospital stays in 2020/21. The decision to increase alcohol duty would result in the avoidance of a significant further increase in these alcohol-related harms and, by reducing these harms, would alleviate pressures on our over-stretched health service.

Emma Roddick MSP raises concerns that an increase in duty could impact on jobs and the economy. Arguments around income, employment and trade are regularly used by the alcohol industry to resist measures which target alcohol consumption and harm. However, there are only seven local authorities where the alcohol producers account for more than 1% of jobs. Even in Moray (which Emma Roddick MSP represents in her region), where alcohol producers account for 3% of all jobs, and distilleries 3% (a total of 1,000 jobs), this is far from the dominant industry - as schools in Moray employ 2,500 people (7%), hospitals 2,000 (6%) and grocery stores 1,900 people (6%).

The World Health Organization has identified alcohol duty as being one of the most effective ways of tackling alcohol-related harm and SNP MSP Emma Roddick’s call to reinstate plans to freeze the duty goes against this entirely. Emma Roddick MSP’s call for a duty freeze not only runs counter to the Scottish Government’s policy on Minimum Unit Pricing, it puts the alcohol industry’s concerns ahead of those of the Scottish population which experiences disproportionately high harms because of alcohol.”

 

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To learn more about alcohol duty and alcohol harm, read our briefing.