Saturday, 28 May 2011

Spreading the pain

Recent reports suggest that the Scottish government are considering implementing a 45p per unit “floor price” for alcohol by using the alcohol duty system rather than simply imposing minimum prices. This may be because they have looked into the legal implications of minimum pricing and concluded that it would probably be ruled illegal as a form of price fixing. On the other hand, governments are free to set whatever levels of alcohol duty they like.

But, of course, an across-the-board duty increase would hit the on-trade just as much as off-sales, and could well end up driving customers away from pubs and bars. It certainly wouldn’t be the panacea to level the playing field as some naïve on-trade advocates have fondly imagined. And having alcohol duties twice as high on one side of a land border as on the other would obviously be a huge invitation to both legal cross-border trade and smuggling.

Part of me says “bring it on – it would be great to see the Righteous with egg on their faces!” but the more realistic side fears it would just be a precursor to similar measures south of the border.

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