Scottish alcohol awareness charities have supported a move by Glasgow City Council to curb supermarkets’ sale of alcohol.
The City’s licensing board rejected moves by major supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer, to increase space to sell alcohol because the stores could not prove the plans would promote public health.
Following the decision, which is the first among licensing boards in Scotland, it was claimed the supermarkets might launch legal action against the Council.
But charity Alcohol Focus Scotland said it would be “extremely worrying” if the supermarkets took legal action against the board “which is simply following the spirit of the law and putting public health first”.
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of the charity, said the country’s alcohol problem would only be made worse if the supermarkets were allowed to expand their alcohol sales.
And Dr Bruce Ritson, chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said Glasgow’s growing alcohol-related problems are linked to the increased availability and affordability of alcohol.
Glasgow City Council’s licensing board decided the supermarkets’ proposals did not match up to conditions set out in legislation which came into force in September.
Under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 any bar, supermarket or hotel selling alcohol must provide a floor plan of exactly where on the premises it will be sold.
They must then apply to the local licensing board if they want to amend their plan.
Dr Gillan said: “The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 requires boards to consider the protection and improvement of public health when deciding whether or not to approve licenses.
“There is good evidence that increasing the availability of alcohol leads to an increase in health and social harm. Glasgow has one of the highest number of alcohol-related deaths in the UK,” she added.
“The licensing board are rightly taking the view that allowing supermarkets more space to sell alcohol can only make a bad situation worse”, she commented.
Gavin Partington of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association called the decision by the licensing board “wrong”.
Last month Tesco was criticised for selling cut-price alcohol after its chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, had called for an end to cheap booze promotions.
The supermarket was selling cases of some brands of beer and cider for as little as £16.
In January a university study showed that alcohol abuse costs every Scottish adult around £900 per year.
The study, from the University of York, estimated the total burden to Scotland’s public purse to be around £3.56 billion a year.
Dr Sally Winning, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, said at the time: “This new study shows that the human cost of alcohol misuse is far greater than we had even imagined and the increasing cost of treating the growing number of people drinking to excess could cripple the NHS.”