Thursday 22 September 2011

Scottish supermarkets face extra tax on selling alcohol


Plans to hike business rates for major retailers of alcohol and tobacco in Scotland could see supermarkets pay around £110 million in tax over the next three years.   Finance Secretary John Swinney announced the new levy yesterday, as part of the Scottish government’s Spending Review.   Swinney said the review contained “tough choices, because of the cuts from Westminster that go too far, too fast”.   “We have had to restrict pay costs, reluctantly implement pensions increases on public sector staff, and maximise the income gained from asset sales,” he said.   He outlined that part of the extra revenue brought in would come from a tax on major retailers who sell alcohol and tobacco.   The measure was a surprise announcement, as during the last parliament a proposal to introduce a “Tesco tax” was voted down and it was not included the SNP’s manifesto.   Scottish Retail Consortium director Ian Shearer said: “This new tax is a blatant fund-raising exercise which is illogical and discriminatory. It targets a part of the retail sector which funds Drinkaware, rigorously prevents under-age sales with Challenge 25 and has led the way on clear alcohol labelling, giving it an exemplary record on the sale of alcohol and tobacco.   “Supermarket margins are already cut to the bone as stores compete to offer the best deals to cash-strapped consumers. The UK already has some of the highest alcohol taxes in Europe. This tax would make it harder for food retailers to keep prices down for customers, and makes Scotland a less attractive place to do business, invest and create jobs.”   The WSTA's Jeremy Beadles said he was "disappointed" the meaure had been announced with no consultation.   "The tax on large retailers will place an additional burden on Scottish businesses and push the price up for all consumers regardless of whether they consume alcohol at all,” he added.   “At a time of financial constraint, when many businesses in Scotland are already feeling the pinch and paying increase rates, we do not believe that punishing responsible consumers in Scotland with another tax is either fair or justified.”     Minimum alcohol unit pricing could become as reality north of the border by next summer, although the price has not yet been set. The Scottish government claims it is the “most effective and efficient way” of reducing consumption and alcohol related harm.