Partnership Agreement: Scottish Executive and the Alcohol Industry

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Alcohol badge.jpg This article is part of the Spinwatch public health oriented Alcohol Portal project.

The Scottish Executive is working in partnership with the alcohol industry in order to develop further ways of tackling the perceived culture of alcohol misuse in Scotland. The agreement, announced on the 22nd of February 2007, includes partnership working between the Scottish Executive, alcohol producers, and retailers in both the off and on licensed trade. The members work with the The Drinkaware Trust who produce educational resources and spearhead campaigns to encourage responsible drinking. Mark Baird of Diageo is the Programme Director, and in this capacity works for the Scottish Executive in Public Health and Substance Misuse: Alcohol[1].


Public health campaigners have criticised the involvement of the alcohol industry in strategies designed to curb alcohol related harm. Professor Griffith Edwards, founder of the National Addiction Centre, voiced his concern, saying: “The drinks trade wanting to enter into partnership on health issues is a bit like saying the International Federation of Wolves should be allowed into partnership with grandmothers. We shall have to control the alcohol supply.”[2]

Drinks giant Diageo’s government affairs manager Rachael Robertson responded to criticisms of her firm's involvement by saying they “had nothing to be ashamed of”, arguing instead that drinks companies’ marketing experience ­and data ­could be used to good effect in public health moves.

The group, funded by the big alcohol lobby group, the Portman Group, also contributed to the debate by claiming the industry has been proactive in relation to irresponsible marketing and products [3]. This platform provides alcohol industry access to elected officials and civil servants where they can contribute to the development and implementation of the Scottish alcohol harm reduction strategy. The aim for this forum is to work with industry to develop practical solutions and actions.


It is interesting to note how industry members were recruited to this group and demonstrates the extent to which the largest alcohol companies exert influence. Access to freedom of information documents shows that initially a select few representatives of the alcohol industry were involved in discussions with senior civil servants, later the membership broadened out to include a range of industry organisations at the recommendation of the original industry partners [4].

Civil servants prepared a draft paper, including suggestions for action, which were presented to key industry representatives. Access to email documents (released under FoI) between the civil servants involved and their industry partners show that the final partnership plan presented to the Health Minister, contained fifteen possible actions.

Thirteen of these had been suggested, worded or rephrased by two prominent alcohol industry partners, Rob Bruce from InBev and Douglas Meikle of the Scotch Whisky Association. The civil servants used many of the alcohol industry's suggestions for action and and rewrote the wording of the original draft to include industry input verbatim. [5].

When the subject of how agreed actions would be funded arises, Scottish Government is clear that funding from the alcohol industry was expected. The response from industry was to direct the civil servants to The Drinkaware Trust, the former charitable wing of the Portman Group which industry already funds. This trust is involved in implementing the English strategy and if funds from industry are sought in Scotland, the industry wants their contributions to Drinkaware to be used in the Scottish action. Initially the only role for Drinkaware in the Scottish plan was as a funding mechanism. However, after Kevin Bryne the then head of Drinkaware meets with the civil servant in charge of the partnership’s progress a wider role is envisaged for Drinkaware. In fact, the suggestions made by Byrne to civil servants in an email are cut and paste and included in the draft.

After the draft report is presented to the Health Minister the partnership between the Scottish Government and the alcohol industry was endorsed. More industry representatives were then are sought for inclusion in the policy process to broaden participation to include including the off trade and retailers. A seconded position within the Scottish government’s Public Health and Substance Abuse was created for a programme director of the partnership this role was filled by Mark Baird who works for Diageo Scotland[6]. His role with the Scottish government is within the NHS addictions and substance misuse team.

Signatories to the Scottish Executive/Alcohol Industry Partnership Agreement

A freedom of information request which asked for details of how the partners were selected for membership was not provided. The reason for this from the Alcohol Policy Team was "I am sorry that we are unable to provide this information as the file containing this information has been misplaced. A full search has failed to recover this file".[7] What is known is that Diageo, S&N, and InBev (formerly Tennents) were involved in the partnership before the other stakeholders were invited. [8] Although other correspondence makes it appear that membership was decided by senior alcohol industry figures.


Scottish Retail Consortium |Scotch Whisky Association |InBev formerly (and still sometimes known in Scotland as Tennents) |Diageo |Scottish & Newcastle |Scottish Licensed Trade Association |BII Scotland |Scottish Beer and Pub Association |Scottish Grocers' Federation |Wine & Spirits Trade Association |Gin & Vodka Association |National Association of Cider Makers [9]


  1. Scottish Executive Internal Staff Directory Public Health and Substance Misuse Staff
  2. Roy Beers, The Publican 16th May 2007 Scottish Health Initiative Criticised Last Accessed 12th September 2007
  3. Roy Beers, The Publican 16th May 2007 Scottish Health Initiative Criticised Last Accessed 12th September 2007
  4. Email Correspondence between civil servants and industry partners, released under freedom of information legislation, September 3rd 2007
  5. Email Correspondence between civil servants and industry partners, released under freedom of information legislation, September 3rd 2007
  6. Email Correspondence between civil servants and industry partners, released under freedom of information legislation, September 3rd 2007
  7. Letter via email from Marion Macfarlane,August 2007, Alcohol Policy Team, to Claire Harkins
  8. Letter, By email, from Deborah Smith, Head of Alcohol & Drug Misuse, 31st August 2006, to John Drummond, Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation, obtained via freedom of information legislation, August 2007
  9. Scottish Retail Consortium News Item 22/02/07 Last Accessed 31st July 2007