A proposed ban on advertising alcohol near schools risks criminalising parents picking up children while wearing drinks-branded football or rugby tops, MSPs have been warned.
The Law Society of Scotland said the Alcohol Bill currently making its way through Holyrood could target unwitting members of the public.
The Member’s Bill brought forward by Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson would introduce restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship.
The proposals include a ban on fixed advertising such as billboards or window displays within 200 metres of schools, nurseries and children’s play areas.
It would also end drinks advertising at sporting and cultural events principally targeted at those under the age of 18.
MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee are due to take evidence on the Bill from a range of organisations.
An online survey carried out by the committee found that 83% of the 543 respondents supported a ban on alcohol sponsorship at events targeted at youngsters while 78% wanted a ban on alcohol advertising near schools.
In a written submission ahead of giving evidence, the Law Society of Scotland said it supported the stated aim of the legislation to promote public health and reduce alcohol related offending.
But, highlighting the section covering alcohol advertising near schools, the society said: “In terms of section 6 (3) of the Bill, ‘advertisement’ means any word, letter, image, mark, light, model, placard, board, notice, screen, awning, blind, flag, device, representation container or package in the nature of, and employed wholly or partly for the purpose of, advertisement or promotion and ‘alcohol advertisement’ means an advertisement promoting alcohol.
“Given this wide definition it would appear in our view that an offence would be committed e.g. where a poster referring to a sporting event sponsored by a drinks company was displayed within the window of a private dwelling house in a restricted area or if a parent or guardian wears a football or rugby jersey with an alcohol sponsor when collecting children from school.
“This provision accordingly runs the risk of not just affecting persons with an interest in advertising but also, unknowingly, members of the public.”
Similar concerns were raised in a submission from Renfrewshire Licensing Board, which said: “The terms of the provisions, and the policy memorandum, state that, in the specific case of cultural or sporting events, any alcohol branding on an individual’s clothing would be covered by the section.
“The board would wish careful consideration to be given to these provisions prior to the potential criminalising of individual citizens for what may be low-level contraventions of the proposed section.”