Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 365)



  360. Are you concerned that if excise duty was to be reduced, that might lead to an increase in consumption by the people at risk and an increase in the problems of alcohol abuse?
  (Mr Atkinson) The linkage between excise duty and the amount of misuse has yet to be shown. There was an attempt a few months ago to ask the Commission to find out if there was a linkage and we do not believe they have statistically even started on that. Again it comes back to my wider remark that excise is a UK-wide overall tax affecting the whole population. Drinking, what is "drunk" and drinking patterns vary region to region. Health is administered region to region, and the misuser is at the end of that chain. So linking excise level to misuse, we find there is no connection.

  361. Are you aware then of any evidence linking the types of alcohol to the problems caused by alcohol abuse? Does drinking spirits or drinking wine or drinking beer make any difference to the problem?
  (Mr Atkinson) Certainly there is more research necessary on what drink is causing the misusers to misuse. The statistical research that I have seen has not put our products at the front end of that.

Mrs Adams

  362. Money that is spent on health promotion, would that come out of your advertising budget? Would it be part of the same budget or would it be budgeted for separately?
  (Mr Morrison) I do not think there is any consistent practice.

  363. Are there any figures available of what each company or the industry as a whole spend on advertising and how that would compare with what the industry spends on health promotion or other government policies.
  (Mr Atkinson) We have figures right now on advertising for you. In the gin and vodka sector it is £10 million in the UK and in the last year in Scotland it is something approaching £1 million on advertising. I am afraid I do not have with me figures, and I could try and get them from members—of course we are only one sector—on the more detailed point you are after.

Mr Tynan

  364. Regarding the likes of alcopops and Vodka Ice, obviously that is targeted at the teenage end of the market, at younger people. Do you see any social responsibility as regards promoting that type of drink and is there any evidence that that is detrimental and could encourage people along the path of alcoholism?
  (Mr Atkinson) I will start this off. Alcopops was a short-lived item and the industry has moved on to the other sort of drinks you are talking about. In the research I have seen, certainly those drinks that you are identifying have not been the ones at the top end of youth drinking. There has been some misquoting of the influence of those drinks on youth and youths who misuse. Statistically, as I say, the bracket of drink you are talking about has not been at the top end of youth drinking or youth misusers. Does that quite get at the angle you are after?


  365. We have asked a lot of questions and I know you have got your train to catch, but are there any final remarks that any one of you would like to make to the Committee?
  (Mr Atkinson) My two colleagues seem to point to me. I would like to thank you very much indeed for having us today. We are part of a very successful industry that does a lot for Scotland. It uses Scottish raw materials. It is as major employer in Scotland and is as major exporter for Scotland. Our remarks today, I would like to come back to an earlier point I made. We have done an awful lot to help ourselves in the industry, whether it is rationalisation, consolidation, maintaining good labour levels despite that and retaining employment. But the problem area for us is this cumulative burden to which I referred earlier, whether it is climate change, export refunds or a wide number of other examples of environmental and other costs. That is where our concern is. It is a major industry for Scotland and we would like it to remain at that. We have done an awful lot to help ourselves. Where we are seeking your assistance if we may is in the problem areas of cumulative costs, including excise.

  Chairman: Thank you for those comments. On behalf of the Committee can I thank all three of you for your attendance today and for the evidence you have given to us. This will be very helpful to the Committee in the compilation of its report.

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