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A Scottish government plan to curb alcohol abuse by requiring retailers to hide drink in cupboards, has been described as “naïve and a failure waiting to happen.”

The Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) which represents hundreds of small shops across Scotland, says at the point of sale it is too late to discourage large numbers of drinkers.

In a formal submission to the Scottish government, Ferhan Ashiq, the Fed’s immediate past president in Scotland, points to hugely successful public information campaigns to curb drink driving.

He said: “The seismic change in drivers’ behaviour didn’t happen because there was intervention each time drivers got behind the wheel. Drinkers stopped because of public information campaigns which changed their mindset. This proposed legislation on alcohol in shops is naïve and a failure waiting to happen.”

In ‘Consultation on Restricting Alcohol Advertising and Promotion‘, the Scottish government proposes to ban promotion of beers, wines and spirits and ban alcohol from shop window displays.

It also wants to stop one side of a shop aisle featuring alcohol and the other featuring non-alcohol products. Mr Ashiq said: “How realistic is all this in a small shop with little space for stock? Sometimes I feel like handing in my keys to politicians and asking them to try running my shop amid this onslaught of legislation of all kinds affecting retailers.”

Mr Ashiq who runs a store in Musselburgh, East Lothian, warned that the “wrongheaded” scheme threatens the survival of independent retailers.

“With the high costs of energy and goods – coming on the back of the stresses for businesses during the pandemic, retailers don’t have the mental or financial capacity to deal with any further legislation. We are burnt out. Some of our members’ businesses may not survive this year.”

Mr Ashiq added: “It feels like independent retailers are public enemy number one to the Scottish government. We face an onslaught of legislation, whether it is the deposit return scheme for bottles and cans, the banning of disposable vapes, the restrictions on high fat, sugar and salt foods (HFSS). We absolutely do not need this wrongheaded alcohol scheme too.

“Independent retailers believe that the government should be tackling the issue of problem drinking through better health education and cultural change, not by penalising retailers who are trying to earn a living and providing a living for the people who work for us.

He added: “Small shops are already in the frontline policing the law – preventing sales to children and to anyone who has visibly had too much or is trying to buy drink out of hours. Our members regularly face abuse and sometimes violence for doing this.

“Moreover, we comply with the law on minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Retailers are playing a major role in curbing alcohol abuse. It is time for the Scottish government to act upstream with effective public information campaigns.”

For more information contact Ferhan Ashiq on 07793 815986 or email ferhanashiq@shads.co.uk or Anne Bingham, Head of Communications on 07879 646842 or email anne.bingham@nfrn.org.uk.

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