Proposals by the Scottish Government, to introduce restrictions on alcohol companies advertising their products, are the latest in a line of poorly thought-out ideas from the SNP/Green devolved administration.
I understand the health and social concerns linked to alcohol.
The seemingly well-intended proposals could include banning of alcohol branded merchandise and glassware and have raised concerns across the whisky and brewing industry.
Obviously the industry is concerned about the impact these measures would have on marketing and advertising their product to responsible consumers.
But there are also concerns on the impact on tourism, which for whisky alone is estimated to be worth some £84 million annually.
There would be little point in having gift shops and visitor centres at distilleries if tourists cannot purchase the branded merchandise.
Regular readers of my column will know that I am a great supporter of encouraging recycling by removing barriers (literally!) and making it easier for residents to dispose of household waste responsibly.
But there are very real concerns from producers, wholesalers and retailers of all drinks, not just alcohol, that the Scottish Government’s Deposit Return Scheme is completely unmanageable in its current form.
The basic idea of the scheme is that consumers would pay an additional 20p on each drink, receiving 20p back when the can or glass/plastic bottle is returned for recycling.
Sounds simple enough.
But many small and medium sized drinks producers fear going out of business or beingforced to increase prices far exceeding the nominal 20p, meaning increased pressure on household bills already stretched by global inflation.
The scheme could also create opportunities for fraud and cause drink producers elsewhere in the UK to cease sales in Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s own independent review on the policy states, ‘that a fully functioning and compliant DRS cannot be in operation for the revised August 2023 schedule.’
Drinks producers – including here in Banff and Buchan – are not against the scheme in principle and neither are my Scottish Conservative colleagues at Holyrood.
Maurice Golden MSP, has long campaigned for a more pragmatic approach to this scheme – to protect businesses and avoid fraud, but also to increase responsible recycling of waste.
The UK Government has similar plans but it should be done across the whole of Great Britain at the same time to work most effectively.
I fear that despite these concerns – which have also been raised by SNP parliamentarians – the Scottish Government will continue to push forward with this botched scheme simply to claim, ‘Scotland was first!’
Finally, readers will be aware that I have been pushing for clarity on when the Alternative Fuel Payment would be issued for those who are not on the gas grid.
I am delighted that these £200 payments started to be delivered by the UK Government last week through customers’ electricity suppliers with most payments made automatically.
For those few customers who are neither on the gas or electricity grid, funding will be paid via application through an online portal which will be available later this month.
This scheme is on top of other UK Government support like the Energy Price Guarantee – saving a typical British household around £900 this winter and the £400 discount off bills through the Energy Bills Support Scheme, with the most vulnerable households receivingadditional support via benefits and pensions.
More details can by found on the UK Government website: www.tinyurl.com/fuelpayment