Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Levy on supermarkets could raise £57 million a year

New research from the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde shows that a levy on shops and supermarkets that sell alcohol could raise £57 million a year. Scotland’s national alcohol charity, Alcohol Focus Scotland, who commissioned the research, say this could provide much-needed additional funding for local alcohol treatment, recovery support and prevention.

While off sales of alcohol have gone down by an estimated 3.5% due to minimum unit pricing, this research provides new estimates that suggest revenue from alcohol has increased by more than £30m a year. This means shops and supermarkets are likely making greater profits.

Alcohol Focus Scotland says this demonstrates the potential for retailers that profit from the sale of alcohol to contribute towards the financial burden it places on society. According to recent estimates alcohol costs Scotland up to £10 billion every year, including £700 million in health and social care costs.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “Alcohol Focus Scotland has been campaigning for some time for the additional money from minimum unit pricing, which currently goes straight into the pockets of shops and supermarkets, to go back into the public purse.

“The Scottish Government has recognised the increasing number of deaths from alcohol - up by 25% in the last three years - as a public health emergency, but to tackle this issue needs appropriate funding. By redirecting some of this additional money, we can relieve the pressures that our health and social care services are experiencing and address the 40% decline in people accessing specialist alcohol treatment over the past decade.

“The call for a retailer levy is also backed by the NCD Alliance Scotland who recognise the benefits of minimum pricing for the health of the nation but see the need to address the unfairness of where the money currently goes.”  

João Sousa, Deputy Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute said: “We were asked by Alcohol Focus Scotland to look at what revenue might be raised by a levy on sellers of alcohol exclusively for consumption off their premises, based on the Non-Domestic Rates valuation roll. When the similar Public Health Supplement was last in place in 2015, it was set at 13p. Setting the same rate today would bring in around £57 million a year.

“Different rates would naturally lead to different levels of revenue – for example, we estimate a 10p rate would bring in around £44 million, and a 16p levy would bring in around £70 million.”

Based on a levy on Non-Domestic Rates, the policy would principally affect big national supermarket chains, who the research found would make up 86% of all revenues. The research considered different levels of levy, finding an increase in revenue of £4.4 million for every 1p change in the levy rate.

Political support for a levy on alcohol retailers has been growing. The Scottish Government committed in their recent budget to explore reintroducing the Public Health Supplement, which raised £95 million from a levy placed on non-domestic rates of large retailers selling alcohol and tobacco between 2012 and 2015.  Scottish Labour are also calling for a Public Health Levy to offset problems caused by alcohol in Scotland.



Monday 5 February 2024