Ian Shearer called the new tax: "illogical and discriminatory"

Ian Shearer called the new tax: "illogical and discriminatory"

Supermarkets have united to condemn a GBP110m (US$169.5m) tax introduced by the Scottish government.

Today (22 September) finance secretary John Swinney announced a new “public health levy” on major retailers as part of an effort to alleviate cuts to Scotland's local authorities.

Large retailers that sell alcohol and tobacco will have to pay a business rates supplement from April, which is projected to raise around GBP110m over the next three years.

Swinney defended the levy as "fair and proportionate", but the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has branded it an “illogical and unjustified tax”, that penalises responsible retailers of alcohol and tobacco and disregards all other parts of the supply chain.

SRC director, Ian Shearer said: "This new tax is a blatant fund-raising exercise. It targets a part of the retail sector that funds DrinkAware, rigorously prevents under-age sales with Challenge 25 and has led the way on clear alcohol labelling, giving it an exemplary record on the sale of alcohol and tobacco.”

Shearer added that supermarket margins are already “cut to the bone” because stores are competing to offer the best deals to consumers.

He added: “The UK already has some of the highest alcohol taxes in Europe. This tax would make it harder for food retailers to keep prices down for customers and makes Scotland a less attractive place to do business, invest and create jobs."

His views are echoed by Richard Taylor, director of corporate affairs at Morrisons, who hinted the tax may be passed on to consumers.

“We believe that any tax that targets retailers in this way will hinder our attempt to provide value for money for our customers and alcohol and tobacco are already two of the highest taxed products,” he said.

“The Scottish government failed to introduce a levy on all large retailers and now they appear to be narrowing their sights on supermarkets, which is not in the interests of customers at a time when the economy is in the doldrums.”

When contacted by just-food, Tesco and Sainsbury's said their views are represented by the SRC.