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ACS CALLS ON SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT TO DROP ADDITIONAL HFSS RESTRICTIONS

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ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on HFSS restrictions, calling on the Scottish Government to save consumers and small businesses from additional costs as the nation emerges from the cost of living and cost of trading crisis. The Scottish Government is proposing additional restrictions to those in place in England, but is aligning with England on the illogical definition of small businesses exempted from the new rules.

The Scottish Government is planning to introduce restrictions on the location and promotion of HFSS (high fat, salt or sugar) products in stores as part of its ambition to reduce obesity rates. While the proposals, scheduled for implementation 12 months after regulations are laid in the Scottish Parliament, broadly follow those that have been introduced in England, additional restrictions being proposed include:

Temporary price reductions (for example 10% off a product for a defined period of time)Free standing displays and islands in store that feature HFSS productsMeal deal restrictions in some form, either those that contain one or more HFSS products, or discretionary foods (multiple options are set out in the consultation)

Retailers estimate that the cost of adapting their stores to comply with the regulations is on average around £13,000 per store. Thousands of Scottish small businesses will be impacted by the regulations due to their membership of a symbol group being incorrectly deemed similar to a franchise agreement. This is inconsistent with other areas of policy where symbol group retailers are rightly treated as small businesses. The inclusion of symbol groups in England has served only to create confusion and additional costs for independent retailers and is set to have the same impact in Scotland.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “It is clear from the consultation that the Scottish Government are still having trouble understanding how symbol groups work, despite several attempts by us and others to clarify the simple fact that symbol group stores are run by independent retailers. Their inclusion in the regulations will serve only to add thousands of pounds of cost for small businesses that are already dealing with the effects of a cost of trading crisis.

“There are some areas where the Scottish Government is taking a different approach to England, notably by outlawing price reductions on single products, in addition to the multi-buy restrictions due to be introduced in England. Going further than England will not make a difference to public health, but it will punish Scottish consumers looking to keep their shopping bills low.”

The submission also highlights the imperative for clear and comprehensive guidance to be produced for retailers, especially if the rules are going to deviate from those introduced in England. HFSS regulations represent some of the most complicated changes to store procedures in recent memory, requiring significant additional resource for retailers to be able to comply with the rules.

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