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30/09/2013

Alcohol charities fear conflict of interest

Scottish health campaigners expressed surprise that a current senior civil servant in a key Department dealing with the implementation of minimum unit pricing has been confirmed as the incoming Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association.

Dr Peter Rice, chair of SHAAP said: “The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is currently involved in legal action in Scottish courts which is delaying the implementation of the Minimum Unit Price (MUP) legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in May 2012. Part of the SWA’s campaign against MUP has been focused on the trade implications for Europe, and SHAAP has previously pointed out the misinformation the alcohol industry has been disseminating in Europe. The SWA’s appointment of Mr Frost, described as the senior official responsible for the UK’s Government’s trade policy with the EU, raises some questions. Will he continue to represent the UK government in trade discussions involving alcohol until he takes up his SWA post? When did his relationship with the SWA start and what role has he played in the development of his Department’s policy on minimum unit pricing?”

Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “AFS has been closely involved in countering the SWA’s challenge to minimum unit pricing by presenting the evidence that it will reduce harm and save lives. We were delighted that the Court found in favour of the Scottish Government in May and disappointed that the SWA and their allies immediately appealed, further delaying implementation. Mr Frost’s appointment to the organisation opposing minimum pricing is an obvious conflict of interest and another example of the revolving door between the public and private sector where gamekeeper turns poacher.”

Mariann Skar, Secretary General in the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, Eurocare, shares the concerns of the Scottish organisations: “What is happening in Scotland is a clear situation where there is a conflict of interest. Federal Governments should impose a minimum of 12 months quarantine periods before regulators may return to private enterprise.”