‘Pub relief’ plan would see off-trade price rises

Former Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to raise the duty on alcohol sold in off-sales by over a third in a bid to “save our pubs”.

According to think tank the Social Market Foundation (SMF), a 34% increase would allow a 75% reduction in duty levied in pubs and other hospitality venues and still be “revenue neutral” to the Treasury.

Translated into prices, the cost of a pint of beer in the pub could fall by 36p (or 10%), whereas the price of a can of beer in convenience stores would rise by 14p (or 15%).

The SMF said the changes could boost pub sales by 100 million pints a year and see overall alcohol consumption fall by 5.7%.

MacAskill, MP for East Lothian, suggested that reducing alcohol duty would boost hard-pressed licensees who are not able to fully reopen their pubs and bars in Scotland until 17 May and even then, businesses will still be under strict coronavirus restrictions.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association has thrown its weight behind the move. Spokesman  Paul Waterson said: “What the Social Marketing Foundation has proposed is a ‘pub relief’ that allows pubs, bars and other licensed premises to claim back a percentage of the duty costs that they face. This would have the benefit of ensuring that the duty rebate is passed directly to pubs.

“A cut in alcohol duty would certainly go a long way to helping the industry come back to life as the furlough scheme ends and businesses start the long fight back to viability.”