Saturday, 24 September 2011

Scotland's Tesco Tax

More than 700 pubs in Scotland have closed since the smoking ban. Scotland was the Westminster government's trial ground for politicians determined to outlaw smoking, yet the Scots allowed themselves to be used once again, just as they did with the poll tax.

What surprises met is that it was the far left, (led by Tommy Sheridan) who protested against the poll tax, yet the same people supported the smoking ban trial in Scotland back in 2006.  Double standards?  They're everywhere and our children are more than confused by such attitudes.

Now, after this week's Scottish budget proposals 20% of publicans are considering quitting the business. 'Almost half of Scots say they go to the pub less frequently than they did in 2009'.

I ask myself 'is it any wonder?'  Here in Scotland pubs in rural towns aren't  -and never have been - particularly female or family friendly and very few supply the comfy image of a country pub providing the best food in town for a typical family Sunday day out.  In fact ,in my nearest town none profess to portray that image, yet somehow they've survived the smoking ban.  It could be that it's rather a lengthy journey to a city and public transport grinds to a halt in the early evening.

John Swinney's proposed budget puts a tax on major retailers who sell alcohol and tobacco.  How will that affect smokers and drinkers?

Tio Pepe in Tesco, in the past twelve months, has gone from £7.20 to £9. 70 - a price which forces me to call it a few times a year treat.  The Co-op offer a Fino, not quite the quality but acceptable, for half the price and, all credit to the Co-op, they haven't increased the price in the past few months when they, like Tesco and other major retailers of alcohol and tobacco, knew this could be on the cards. The tax was proposed last year but the government voted against it. This year, with the SNP majority, it will be approved.

Much as I respect my local MSP's ability to use the Scottish budget for the wellbeing of the Scottish people, does he realise now he has imposed this tax upon major retailers, the costs will be passed onto their customers. Mr Tesco and his ilk won't lose out and it's more than probable the giants will spread the costs over their whole stocks rather than target only the drinkers and smokers.

Could John Swinney have an alternative motive?  Could our High Street grocers, butchers and the like re-establish themselves?  Oh, how I wish - but I dream.


RMcGeddon said...

I suppose the SNP have to find the money to build their useless windmills and wave power machines from somewhere. And if it hurts smokers and drinkers then it's a win win for them. They despise smokers and drinkers and global warming skeptics so will rub our noses in it with their tesco tax.
Their minimum pricing for alcohol would have been laughed out of the EU courts so this is a useful alternative. They would hate to upset the EU as they adore it.

subrosa said...

It won't only hurt smokers and drinkers though RM, I'm sure these supermarkets will spread the tax over their whole stores.

It's certainly not being done for public health reasons. That's a nonsense.

All this talk of minimum pricing has pushed up the price of alcohol over the past 2 years and now the big boys have a further excuse to make more profits.

One thing is sure, the supermarkets' profits won't be affected.

RMcGeddon said...

That tio pepe sherry is £8.27 at Asda. If you have one nearby.

subrosa said...

Unfortunately I don't RM. Dundee and Perth Asdas are 20 and 18 miles away. Mind you, if I could save up to invest in a few... ;)

JRB said...

Some of what is proposed in Mr Swinney’s Draft Budget must be credited as progressive and forward thinking.

However, that said, this proposed Tesco Tax may prove to be the SNP’s equivalent version of the Tory poll tax – hated by all.
Mr Swinney first proposed his ‘Tesco Tax’ way back in January, but even then it failed to win popular or public support and was soundly voted down at Holyrood.

Both smoking and the consumption of alcohol are legal pursuits. Their purchase is subjected to the imposition of tax and duties. If there is a problem with their consumption in certain quarters of society, then those sectors of society should be specifically targeted in order to resolve the problem.
But no, Mr Swinney proposes to increase the rates of retailers to offset his costs. No doubt the retailers will be ‘obliged’ to pass these additional charges on to ALL customers.
So rather than address the problem, Mr Swinney hopes to pay for the problem by a form of indirect taxation that will encompass all.

But there is a more worrying aspect to all this than the simple increase of business rates.
This is a blatant and less than subtle attempt at social engineering through indirect taxation.
And where does that end?

Obesity is a major problem looming large on the horizon. Is Mr Swinney about to hike the rates of every chippie, every take-away, every restaurant, and every bakery in the country.

Social engineering has been attempted by many countries in the past; Mr Swinney would do well to learn from the experiences of these countries, for all they ever achieved was to open Pandora’s Box.

RMcGeddon said...

SR. Could you not use your bus pass and get a free run into Perth ? ;)

Yes you're right. Social engineering. Price rises will only effect pensioners and poor people. Rich people will still enjoy a glass of sherry whenever they like rather than a couple of times a year. If they wanted to stop people drinking to excess they could enforce existing laws but are afraid to for some reason. Anyone who has travelled to mainland Europe will know we have the highest alcohol and cigarette prices in Europe. I have friends whose sole reason for a weekend abroad is to bring back enough booze and tobacco to see them until their next trip abroad. Effectively a free weekend away to Europe for them.
The SNP should forget putting up prices and concentrate on independence. We wouldn't be shackled to the rest of the UK and all it's debt obligations if we were independent. It's weird that they're not taking the opportunity to push for a vote on independence when the other main parties are in turmoil and the UK coalition is hated in Scotland. Something very fishy afoot methinks.

Leg-iron said...

Whisky prices have been rocketing too. Grant's have even brought out a 50 cl bottle which is on 'special offer' at £10.

In January, that was the normal price of a 70 cl bottle!

The single malts are rapidly moving out of range too. I'm going to have to invest in distillation equipment. Unfortunately it takes years to become drinkable so I really wish I'd started long ago.

Joe Public said...

Why should every supermarket customer pay a tax just because some other customers choose to no longer patronise certain establishments?

What concern is it of meddling politicians, where an individual sources their booze?

Anon said...

I hate the big out of town Tescos. I support a tax on them.

- Aangirfan

RMcGeddon said...


Who do you think pays for the tesco tax ? Have a wild guess.

Sandy said...

The big supermarkets are not really all that cheap.

They sucker people in the door with free parking , cheap drink offers and lost leaders, then rip them off for as much as they can.

So if they keep selling booze at below market price , Holyrood will keep on hitting them till they stop selling boooze or smarten up their act.

I dont have a problem with that.

Like you Rosie , I hope the high street is the main one to profit out of this.

RMcGeddon said...


"So if they keep selling booze at below market price , Holyrood will keep on hitting them till they stop selling boooze or smarten up their act."

Yes it's terrible Sandy. Imagine giving us cheap booze. tsk tsk.
Although I don't think you've been reading the comments Sandy. SR and Leggy have been finding supermarket booze prices are getting ridiculously high.

subrosa said...

JRB, we'll have to see just how much a standard shop increases before we know how this affects us. That will take some time to filter through.

The business rate angle is very concerning. Only today a businessman was talking to me about it. You're right, he must be very careful or he will lose the goodwill of many.

subrosa said...

RM, I don't have a bus pass. There aren't enough buses around here for me to need one. :)

subrosa said...

A half litre for £10 goodness me LI. Just a year ago I was able to buy a full bottle for that price. Not the best obviously but good enough for whisky macs and toddies.

subrosa said...

It's none of their concern Joe. It just seems like an easy way to raise money for other projects such as renewables (as RM says).

subrosa said...

I don't like them either Aangirfan but in my nearest town, which is small, the choice is only Tesco or a very small Co-op. Further choice is in Dundee or Perth.

subrosa said...

Sandy, it's too late to revitalise High Streets. No sensible person would open a business there in this economic climate.

romeplebian said...

re supermarkets there was an interesting programme on the telly to do with the high street over the years, it opened shops like breadmaker, blacksmith, butcher et al and initially they were popular and go favourable reviews. They then set up shops in the sixties and opened a high street supermarket, and all the people who liked the individual shops drifted to the supermarket.

So there is no getting away from supermarkets, yet they dont need to be of the Tesco Asda Morrison variety.

What I though would be interesting would be to open a large supermarket with the individual depts run by local people selling local produce.

Next the big problem with the high streets are the rents charged and the rates, it is so expensive and is a big cost to be paid before the shop even makes a profit, which is why we have seen towns replicate with the big retailers who stifle competition, and afford it with leveraged debt

subrosa said...

I missed that programme unfortunately romeplebian but I agree with you that once the supermarket idea was introduced then there was no way they could be contained.

Like others say it's their out of town ideology which has destroyed the High Street and yes, the rents in High Streets are now extortionate. In many cities and large towns the buildings belong to multinationals and they couldn't care if they're used or not, so long as they don't lose out on their investment in bricks and mortar.

subrosa said...

Oh romeplebian, the idea of locals selling their produce was mooted here in my local small town some years ago. Guess what? Health and safety was its downfall before it even got off the ground. In fact even at local shows open to the public food can't be sold unless under strict conditions. Such a shame.

Hamish said...

"Post hoc, ergo propter hoc" is a classical logical fallacy. Independently of the smoking ban, there has been a decline in people going to drinking dens, staff clubs, working men's clubs, etc.
People prefer to drink at home or with friends over a meal.
This trend has been helped by the availability of cheap booze at the supermarkets. I'm surprised that you are opposed to Minimum Pricing for alcohol. Apart from the health agenda, this will help not only the small retailers but also the pubs to stay in business.
A rate of 50p per unit will see off the cheapo apologies for whisky and the vodka distilled in garages and the fire-water cider.
Trebles all round I would say.

subrosa said...

Hamish, since the introduction of drink-driving laws 20 years ago there has been a marked decline in the use of pubs. It didn't start with the smoking ban.

It was then that people started to drink at home/with friends without the risk of being caught over the limit. It did increase the taxi business but only by around 20% I'm reliably told, although that figure has reduced today because folk are more out of the habit of visiting pubs.

I do accept your point, but it's 30 years since supermarkets appeared in Scotland.

I'm not opposed to the minimum pricing policy per se, but what I do object to is the endless increases which have occurred because of the discussion. The supermarkets have made a fortune out of the proposal and it hasn't become law as yet.

As for the health agenda - will any tax increase help that? We live in a country where we have darkness more than light for 5 months of the year. It's a proven fact that people will use substances to improve their dispostions.

I'd no idea we had a multitude of garage vodka distilleries although I have tried my own scrumpy many years ago. It was quite acceptable. :)

If prices go higher then people like me will revert to brewing their own. I do a lovely vermouth. :)

Observer said...

I don't think there is any connection between the price of drink rising & the SNP. The price of drink has been rising because all prices have been rising, you get that after quantitative easing as sure as night follows day.

If you print more money then it buys less stuff.

I think Swinney has played a masterstroke here because he has picked on businesses which can afford to pay more tax. The supermarkets profits are amazingly big. They won't pass it on, they can afford to absorb it. If they do all pass on the same level of increase due to the tax that will be against their usual pattern of uber competetiveness & they can probably get done for price fixing.

Swinney has a hell of a hard job subrosa, please don't join in & bash him because of the price of a bottle of sherry.

Please don't.

Observer said...

''Health and safety was its downfall before it even got off the ground. In fact even at local shows open to the public food can't be sold unless under strict conditions. Such a shame.''

The people you know have been misadvised. If we can have Farmer's Markets in Queens Park & Patrick surely you can have them in a rural area? There are no special conditions one is set up in a park & one in the train station/bus terminus courtyard in Patrick.

Observer said...

There are no increases proposed for standard shops apart from inflation, which happens every year.

Swinney is not attacking business. That is just the papers talking.

Observer said...

Partick, even.

RMcGeddon said...


" Swinney is not attacking business. That is just the papers talking"

So a £493m increase in business rates over 3 years 'as the economy recovers' (sic), a ban on the display of cigarettes, a tesco tax, a plan for minimum pricing of alcohol, a plan for 100% renewables with subsidies for 'green energy' and penalties for CO2 emissions etc isn't attacking business ?

subrosa said...

I'm not bashing John Observer because I know he has a hard job and I know he's very capable of doing it. Couldn't think of any other politician from the 90s who I'd rather see in charge of the government's finance.

But I have to disagree with you. I do think the supermarkets will quietly put up prices - again. I have to admit increases are more noticeable when you buy one particular item regularly.

Also I do wish the tax wasn't called a health prevention tax because that's nonsense and quite insulting to anyone of intelligence. If the money was going directly into a special health quango then fine, but it's not. Using health to tax national retailers isn't a good idea.

subrosa said...

Farmers markets require a licence Observer and have to conform to certain health and safety issues such as packaging, storing, etc. It all adds to increased costs but I should think by now most farmers markets have managed to claw back their expenditure for the various equipment required.

I know several people who take part in farmers' markets.

What I was talking about was a few dozen people getting together once a month to sell their excess fruit and veg, plus the mandatory jam, chutney etc. The health and safety advice involved the necessity to buy packaging machinery, labelling (hand written were disallowed as 'possibly illegible') etc. In the end they decided just to swap things rather than sell them cheaply to others who may not have facilities to grown anything.

Since then a shop has opened which does sell local produce but is unable to accept any from the likes of me for the reasons I state above.

Two of the folk I know who take part in markets were hard hit initially with capital costs. One had to buy equipment to sell his apple juice in cartons because the H & S said it could forment in bottles (he's been selling it in bottles for 40 years). Another had to buy expensive chilled shelving as the gas fridges he used on site (I used these myself for many years when working outdoors) weren't thought to be efficient enough, even though he was able to prove they were.

Such is bureaucracy.

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