Drinks firm Whyte & Mackay has been forced to apologise after it emerged that figures it released attacking minimum pricing for alcohol were UK figures and not as had widely been believed Scottish figures.
The company had claimed that the introduction of minimum pricing by the Scottish government could lead to Whyte & Mackay having to cut 300 jobs. It also emerged that the firm had used a price per unit figure of 50p; 25% higher than the example figure of 40p cited by the SNP.
The Leading whisky supplier has said it is sorry if it misled anyone over the case it made against the SNP’s minimum drink pricing. The companies claims were widely reported in the main stream Scottish media with The Scotsman, The Record and The BBC each featuring prominent articles containing the companies criticisms of the SNP policy.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:
“I think Whyte & Mackay have been rather disingenuous with this evidence – it’s based on a 50 pence per unit minimum price across the whole of the UK and clearly our proposals apply only to Scotland.
“The Whyte & Mackay document looks at a 50p per unit minimum price of alcohol, when at every stage the Scottish government have illustrated the positive impact of minimum pricing on the basis of 40p, which would result in a minimum price for a bottle of whisky of £11.20 – not £14 – and well below the existing price of the vast majority of whisky products.”
Company spokesman Rob Bruce insisted there had been no intention of “pulling the wool over anybody’s eyes”.
Mr Bruce added: “Certainly from the point of view of communicating the job numbers, we certainly didn’t set out to mislead anybody – if that is the case I can only apologise.”
The Scottish government said a minimum-pricing policy – which has been backed by all four UK Chief Medical Officers, other health experts and the police and licensed trade – would contribute to reducing alcohol consumption in Scotland and help save lives.
The Alcohol Bill also includes proposals to ban drink promotions, grant powers for licensing boards to raise the age limit for buying alcohol from 18 to 21 and a ‘social responsibility charge’ for retailers who sell alcohol.
Minimum pricing has been backed by Tennent’s, one of Scotland’s biggest alcohol brands. It has also been backed by the NSPCC’s ChildLine service in Scotland who has submitted a joint statement with seven other organisations: Children 1st; Aberlour; YouthLink Scotland; Barnardo’s Scotland; Action for Children Scotland; Quarriers; and Parenting across Scotland.