Leading drinks sector companies have joined forces to challenge the Scottish Government to call time on moves which could restrict alcohol advertising and marketing.
Firms including the Budweiser Brewing Group, Lanson Champagne, Diageo, Whyte & Mackay and Tennent’s Lager have all signed an open letter to Holyrood ministers, saying: “Don’t destroy Scotland’s drinks industry.”
The letter marks the firms’ opposition to new restrictions that the Scottish Government is currently consulting on.
More than 100 drinks firms from across Scotland have put their names to it, with signatories also including Belhaven, Brewdog, Chivas Brothers/Pernod Ricard, The Macallan, and the Molson Coors Beverage Company.
With a number of smaller producers also having signed the letter, distilleries from Orkney to Annandale have backed the plea, along with breweries from Lewis to Braemar.
It comes after the Scottish Government launched a consultation which considers banning alcohol sponsorship for both sports and live events.
The consultation, which runs until March 9, could also see distillery and brewery shops barred from selling branded merchandise to visitors, as well as drinks branding being removed from pub umbrellas and glassware.
With ministers also considering a ban on all outdoor advertising of alcohol, including on vehicles, and a ban on adverts in newspapers and magazines, the companies that signed the letter fear the measures would result in a “blanket ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship” in Scotland.
They insist that this “could not have come at a worse time for our sector, and the many thousands we employ”, with the drinks industry having “suffered hard through the Covid years”, while the current cost-of-living crisis “threatens the very existence” of some firms.
Drinks firms insisted: “At times like these, we urgently need the support of our government and elected representatives.”
They argue that the “ban” on advertising and marketing will harm the sector with “no clear evidence to justify such a move”.
The letter states: “Restricting the ability to promote and market products responsibly will remove a vital route to market and go against the Scottish Government’s vision to double the turnover of the food and drink sector by 2030.
“A further unintended consequence of these proposals would be the blocking of a key source of vital funds to Scotland’s sports and arts and culture sectors, at a time when they can least afford this.”
With the sector employing 88,700 people in Scotland, and contributing £6.1bn gross value added (GVA) to the economy each year, the letter describes drinks such as Scotch whisky, and beers and gins produced in Scotland as being “iconic exports which in turn drive our economy here at home”.
The companies insist they “recognise and share in the Scottish Government’s determination to reduce harmful consumption of alcohol”, adding that there will be “further workable steps” the sector can take to help with this.
But argued: “These proposals will not serve to achieve this and do not address the root cause of why someone might come to have a harmful relationship with alcohol.
“Instead, they will needlessly hold our country back, to the detriment of Scottish jobs.
“With the support of brewers and distillers across Scotland and the UK, we urge the Scottish Government to listen to our concerns regarding the significant impact these measures will have not only on the alcohol industry, but on the thousands of families it supports, but wider Scottish society too.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Alcohol-related harm is one of the most pressing public health challenges that we face in Scotland.
“An average of 700 people are hospitalised and 24 people die each week from illnesses caused by drinking alcohol. That’s why we have taken forward initiatives such as Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in the face of significant challenge from some quarters of the alcohol industry.”
Public health minister Maree Todd will meet “key stakeholders”, including figures from the alcohol and advertising sectors during the consultation to “hear directly” their concerns.
The spokesperson continued: “Our alcohol framework is clear that we will work with the alcohol industry on projects which can impact meaningfully on reducing alcohol harms.
“The public health minister has already been clear that 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.
“The Scottish Government is determined to tackle Scotland’s problematic relationship with alcohol and the current wide-ranging consultation is an important step in doing that.”