Concerns over alcohol inclusion in government’s Best Start programme

Retailers in Scotland have expressed their concern over the inclusion of alcohol in the revamp of the government’s Best Start programme.

Concerns over alcohol inclusion in government's Best Start programme

The new scheme, now known as ‘Best Start’, will begin on 22 August. 

Paper vouchers will be replaced with a payment card and, despite an ‘approved’ list of products existing, customers will be free to buy anything. 

Mo Razzaq, owner of a Family Shopper in Blantyre, Glasgow, praised the introduction of a card. “This is a great idea, and it will benefit customers,” he told betterRetailing. “The vouchers caused problems because retailers were having to save them up and then send four months’ worth off in one go, which meant they weren’t receiving their payment immediately.”

However, he stressed he was “surprised” by the addition of alcohol. “It will be problematic advising customers not to use the credit to pay for alcohol,” he said. “As responsible retailers, we will be introducing some kind of campaign to remind customers that the scheme is about providing healthy food for your children.”

District president Hussan Lal expressed his concern that the credit will be abused as a result. “It acts as a freebie from the government,” he said. 

“I support Razzaq in what he will be doing because this scheme is for the benefit of children. 

“I never had an issue monitoring which products were included in the first place.”

Lal added he is worried legislation will be introduced if the scheme isn’t carried out correctly. “If it’s abused, which I believe it will be, it won’t take a health minister long to realise that, and impose legislation to make sure we aren’t selling alcohol using the credit,” he said. 

“This landed on our doorstep, but we should have been involved so the government knows what issues retailers will be faced with.”


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