Rethink Needed on Alcohol

Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie is calling for a fresh look at measures to tackle alcohol abuse.

“Clearly radical measures are required to tackle Scotland’s alcohol problems, but the current SNP proposals are not the answer. While there are links between price, availability and consumption, minimum pricing is a simplistic approach that won’t address the worst aspects but will impose an unnecessary burden on others. What’s more, the money raised would go to the retailers, not education or treatment or alcohol law enforcement.

“It would leave the worst drink-related antisocial behaviour untouched. A survey showed that Buckfast was consumed by 43% of Polmont YOI inmates before committing their offences, but it costs more than the likely minimum price.

“People with drink problems are also unlikely to be affected – except adversely because they will be left with less money to spend on food.

“It would though, be a problem for the industry, particularly for firms such as Whyte and Mackay who have a large part of their production going to supermarket own brands.

“While white vans would stream down to the border to join the traffic jams to load up in Berwick and Carlisle, I doubt that sales of Scottish produce would be maintained that way.

“There have been various targetted initiatives in recent years, some of which are only now being implemented. It is early days to judge their effectiveness, and we should not rush to bring in new measures that will bring uncertain benefits but are certain to do harm.

“The Scottish Government has been less than forthcoming on legal advice about whether the legislation would even be competent. Nor will they say what level it would be set at – they want the power to decide that without further scrutiny. But if introduced, there is likely to be a challenge in the European Courts.”

Scottish Labour is setting up a Commission to consider alternative pricing mechanisms and other measures that can be developed to tackle alcohol abuse. The Commission, led by Professor Sally Brown, Emeritus Professor of Education at Stirling University, will start work in the New Year and will consider a range of measures that will help to tackle the over-consumption of alcohol, including an examination of alternative pricing mechanisms.

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