The boss of the Scotch Whisky Association has called on health campaigners to show “a little less disdain” for workers in the drinks industry.
Speaking at a Westminster Social Policy Forum conference in London, David Frost said campaigners in favour of minimum unit pricing should take into account the contribution that alcohol producers make to job creation and the economy.
“I don’t think you’ll find in our industry taking lightly the problems caused by alcohol misuse,” said Frost, but he added that the answer to the issue did not lie in “quick fixes and simple solutions”.
He added: “They don’t work because they are not the whole story. We need to go for flexible solutions. We don’t need complicated legislation that is difficult to change according to changes in circumstances.
“We believe the right way to tackle this is by fair taxation across [alcohol] categories.”
Frost claimed that Scottish government plans to introduce minimum unit pricing – which have been put on hold by a legal challenge in Europe by the SWA – risk damaging the £4.3 billion of exports made each year by whisky producers.
“Many people under-estimate how influential policy makers in the UK can be and the impact that would have around the world.
“We’d expect to see minimum unit pricing and similar methods used around the world to protect local products.”
Daniel Kleinberg, head of tobacco, alcohol and diet for the Scottish Government admitted that MUP is ”by no means a silver bullet” and that “it is not lost on us the contribution that the industry makes to the economy”.
But he added: “It’s extremely easy to get enough alcohol to do yourself a lot of damage – and a lot of Scots do.”
Paul Bartlett, corporate affairs director of Tennent’s lager and Magners cider supplier C&C Group, said: We have supported minimum unit pricing since the Scottish government first mentioned it.
“We believe there are issues concerning some of the drinkers were involved with and minimum unit pricing is one way that can help. It’s not a panacea but it is a positive step.”