LEADING companies in the drinks sector have joined forces to challenge the Scottish Government to call time on moves which could restrict alcohol advertising and marketing.

Firms including the Budweiser Brewing Group, Lanson Champagne, Diageo, Whyte & Mackay and Tennent’s have all signed an open letter to Holyrood ministers, saying: “Don’t destroy Scotland’s drinks industry.”

The letter marks the firms’ opposition to new restrictions the government is currently consulting on.

More than 100 drinks firms from across Scotland have put their names to it, with signatories also including Belhaven, Brewdog, Chivas Brothers/ Pernod Ricard, The Macallan, and the Molson Coors Beverage Company. Smaller producers have also signed the letter.

READ MORE: Will Yes-backing, booze-shunning Scots herald a cultural shift?

Proposals include banning alcohol sponsorship for sports and other live events. Distillery and brewery shops barred from selling branded merchandise to visitors and drinks branding could be removed from pub umbrellas and glassware. Ministers are also considering a ban on all outdoor advertising of alcohol, including on vehicles and a ban on adverts in newspapers and magazines.

The companies that signed the letter insist this “could not have come at a worse time for our sector, and the many thousands we employ”, with the drinks industry having “suffered hard through the Covid years”, while the cost of living crisis “threatens the very existence” of some firms.

They argue that the “ban” on advertising and marketing will harm the sector with “no clear evidence to justify such a move”.

The letter states: “Restricting the ability to promote and market products responsibly will remove a vital route to market and go against the Scottish Government’s vision to double the turnover of the food and drink sector by 2030.

“A further unintended consequence of these proposals would be the blocking of a key source of vital funds to Scotland’s sports and arts and culture sectors, at a time when they can least afford this.”

The companies insist they “recognise and share in the Scottish Government’s determination to reduce harmful consumption of alcohol”. But they argue: “These proposals will not serve to achieve this and do not address the root cause of why someone might come to have a harmful relationship with alcohol.

“Instead, they will needlessly hold our country back, to the detriment of Scottish jobs. We urge the Scottish Government to listen to our concerns regarding the significant impact these measures will have not only on the alcohol industry, but on the thousands of families it supports, but wider Scottish society too.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Alcohol-related harm is one of the most pressing public health challenges that we face in Scotland.

“An average of 700 people are hospitalised and 24 people die each week from illnesses caused by drinking alcohol. That’s why we have taken forward initiatives such as Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in the face of significant challenge from some quarters of the alcohol industry.”

Public Health Minister Maree Todd will meet “key stakeholders”, including figures from the alcohol and advertising sectors during the consultation to “hear directly” their concerns.