The confusion surrounding the implementation of a tobacco display ban in the UK deepened this week after the Scottish government scrapped the April 1 start date for large stores.

The need to notify the European Union of the revised regulations, and an ongoing legal challenge by Imperial Tobacco, had forced the government to push the deadline back until further notice, public health minister Michael Matheson told C-Store went to press.

The move increases the chance that Wales and Northern Ireland, which have also yet to lay their revised regulations before the EU, will follow Scotland’s lead and postpone the start date.

Should this happen, only large stores in England will be forced to comply with a display ban from April, a fact which is likely to result in widespread confusion for adult smokers and national convenience chains.

In another move, the Scottish government also announced an increase in the size of the requested display area. Stores will now be able to display a 1,000sq cm area of the gantry (about the size of eight to 12 cigarette packs) while stocking up, or following a request by an adult smoker. It had previously proposed a maximum display area of just 120sq cm.

The change should make retailers’ working practices easier, although the disparity between England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which will be permitted to display a 1.5sq m section of their gantries, is also likely to add to the confusion.

Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief executive John Drummond said he welcome the concession. “While this is still nowhere near parity with the rest of the UK it is an acknowledgement from the Scottish government that their original proposals were wide of the mark and that they have listened to our concerns,” he commented.

A new fixed penalty of £200, rising by £200 for every offence committed under the legislation within a two-year period, will also be introduced for Scottish retailers who breach the ban once it is enforced.