Alcohol advertising ban Scotland: Tourism bodies warn restrictions will have similar economic impact as Brexit

Dozens of tourism bodies across Scotland have called on the next leader of the SNP to scrap the proposed ban on alcohol advertising and promotion, warning the policy is “ill conceived” and would bring “self-inflicted damage to swathes of Scotland’s communities”.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance has urged Nicola Sturgeon’s successor as first minister not to introduce the controversial legislation, arguing it runs contrary, and would ultimately undermine, numerous economic goals set out by the Scottish Government. Some 27 tourism organisations across the country have put their name to an open letter to the three SNP leadership candidates, insisting there was “complete unanimity” in their opposition to the blanket ban.

Those championing the new laws argue it would help drive down alcohol-related deaths and hospitalisations across Scotland, and protect children and young people from taking up drinking, or drinking more. But the initiative has faced a backlash from the drinks industry, with many firms warning it would harm business.

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Now the overarching trade body for Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry has joined the debate, insisting that if enacted, the ban would leave some of the country’s premium industries “crippled in global markets at a time of monumental pressure”. It also warns the ban would compromise Scotland’s appeal and attractiveness as a global tourism destination.

The letter, which compares the scale of potential economic damage to the fallout from the decision to leave the European Union, states: “The policy is ill-conceived, high risk and delivers self-inflicted damage to swathes of Scotland’s communities and the positioning of our country as a globally attractive visitor destination, through consequences we can only hope are unintended. We continue to live with the fallout and consequences of Brexit; the scale of economic self-harm would be similar.

“Is there a country anywhere else in the world where policy makers would on the one hand welcome the opening of prestige state-of-the-art visitor centres across a premium industry that is our single biggest manufactured export globally in whisky, while on the other hand introduce a policy that implies their product is too dangerous to advertise and sponsor communities, music, cultural and sports events?”

The letter adds: “A robust, cross-sector approach is essential to tackling the potential harms of alcohol. Rather than punishing Scotland’s drinks industry, visitor attractions and events, we must work together to promote responsible alcohol consumption. Leadership intervention is needed to join the dots and understand the true implications of such policy. The risks to Scotland’s economy are extremely high.”

There are already doubts over whether the legislation will be passed. Finance secretary Kate Forbes, one of the frontrunners for the SNP leadership, has already intimated that if elected, she would scrap the proposals for the ban.

Tourism bodies have hit out at the proposed ban on alcohol advertising. Picture:Jeff J Mitchell/GettyTourism bodies have hit out at the proposed ban on alcohol advertising. Picture:Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
Tourism bodies have hit out at the proposed ban on alcohol advertising. Picture:Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

She told the Scottish Mail on Sunday: “Why would you undermine one of Scotland’s greatest exports, and indeed a product which is so synonymous with Scotland, which attracts hundreds if not thousands if not millions of tourists to come to Scotland? I could not support a ban on advertising of one of Scotland’s greatest exports, namely whisky.”



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