Scottish retailers hit out at tax plans

30 September, 2011

Retailers have criticised a Scottish government plan to introduce an extra business rate levy on supermarkets that sell alcohol and tobacco.

The tax was outlined by finance secretary John Swinney MSP in his annual spending review and is scheduled to be introduced from April 2012. 

He said the levy, which will help fund public health spending, will raise £110 million over the following three years.

In a post-Budget statement, Swinney said the government’s policy on business rates “reiterates our commitment that Scotland will remain the most competitive place to do business in the UK”.

The levy was condemned by the Scottish Retail Consortium director Ian Shearer as “illogical and discriminatory”.

Shearer said: “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.

“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.”

Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles urged Swinney to reconsider the plans.

“At a time of financial constraint, when many businesses in Scotland are already feeling the pinch and paying increased rates, we do not believe that punishing responsible consumers with another tax is either fair or justified,” he said.

The tax announcement comes as all Scottish drinks retailers are preparing for life after multibuys. The promotional mechanism – which includes popular deals such as three-for-two, BOGOFs and three-for-£10 – will be outlawed from October 1.

Sainsbury’s issued a separate promotional price list for wines in Scotland for the first time this week. It contained 13 half-price deals on bottles of wine and four other price promotions. By contrast, the promotional list for England and Wales featured the same deals plus 26 wines on a two-for-£10 offer and a dozen at three-for-£12. There were also additional 25%-off promotions on a further 11 wines.

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