Speaking at his first SLTA AGM as managing director, Colin Wilkinson discussed the refreshed structure, describing it as a new chapter in the association’s history with a radically different operating and membership structure making it “fit for purpose in the 21st century to meet the needs of the licensed trade in today’s business climate”.
He highlighted some key points:
A study by Jim Lewsey, professor of medical statistics at Glasgow University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, found that the reduced drink-drive limit in Scotland had had no impact on cutting road accidents. The Scottish Government cut the legal blood alcohol limit for motorists in December 2014 arguing that the change would help save lives and make the country’s roads safer.
The SLTA’s submission to the Government then stated: “We are strongly of the opinion that only by increasing the number of breath tests carried out and increasing the penalties for those caught over the current 80 limit will any significant improvement be made in reducing drink driving offences.
“The SLTA continues to argue that if we are truly to be brought in line with Europe, then this should be reflected in a scaled system of penalties similar to most EU countries.”
In September 2018, the SLTA welcomed plans set out in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government to introduce a Non-Domestic Rates Bill to implement recommendations from the Barclay Review, including: moving to a three-year valuation cycle; improving business rates administration to give better information to ratepayers and reduce the number of appeals; and reforming reliefs and tackling known avoidance measures.
There was further good news last October when the Public Finance Minister, Kate Forbes MSP, announced that hotels and bars across Scotland would continue to benefit from a cap on their business rates bill. Having already benefited from the cap in 2017/18 and 2018/19, hospitality businesses will now see rates capped at a maximum of 12.5% in real terms each year until April 1, 2022.
But Mr Wilkinson said: “However, as we have said before, there remains a fundamental flaw with the outmoded system of valuing hospitality and licensed trade businesses and unless there is an equally applied commercial rating system for all types of businesses, Scotland’s hospitality industry is bearing an over-proportionate share of the commercial rates burden.”
The Scottish Government’s ‘Alcohol Framework 2018: Preventing Harm’ included proposals to consult on alcohol marketing such as in public spaces and online. Under the framework, the UK Government would be pressed to impose a 9 pm watershed for alcohol advertising on TV, and restrictions on advertising in cinemas were also proposed.
In addition, alcohol producers would be urged to put health information on labels, the current minimum unit price of 50p would be reviewed after May 1, 2020 and curbs on the marketing of alcoholic drinks to protect children were included in the Government’s new plans to tackle alcohol harm.
In response, the SLTA stated that it opposed a blanket ban on alcohol advertising on the grounds that most producers say their advertising is aimed at encouraging existing customers to switch brands. The SLTA continues to back tougher restrictions on media price-based advertising, especially by supermarkets. Such advertising does not influence customers to switch brands – it only encourages increases in volume sales.
Mr Wilkinson also highlighted several other current issues/debates for the SLTA:
- Renewal of personal licences
- Skills shortages
- Deposit return scheme (DRS)
- Tourist tax
- Out of home eateries (OOH)