Minimum Pricing finally hit the wall yesterday as it was voted out by the Holyrood parliament. While the fallout & acrimony continues, there are two points to be made.
While Minimum Pricing was undoubtedly the flagship policy of the SNP’s Alcohol bill, a policy which deserved to fall because it wouldn’t work (as has been discussed here & here). There were two other proposals which deserve closer scrutiny, partially because they too failed to make the Alcohol Bill (Trebles all round Scottish Labour!!!), but also because i think they would have had more chance of working than Minimum Pricing. The Tightening of Licensed premises would have set a higher standard for public houses, while the rise in the age where alcohol could be purchased from off-licences would be able to give shop owners a better chance to assess whether someone was over or under age. Of course this regulation would be nullified if underagers got an older adult to buy alcohol for them, however some sort of sanction against this act should be looked into.
The second point is that Scotland’s alcoholism is talked about as a disease to be cured. However there is another point here, that the love of Mr Booze is a symptom of something else. Whether it’s an inability to cope in our dark, damp (and currently very windy) country, our need for a “prop” after working long hours or just that… well there’s nothing else to do. Our Booze culture is very heavily ingrained into Scottish culture. Right down to the lack of coffee shop’s open late into the evening, public houses & king Booze dominate the Scottish mind-set. Perhaps a way is to provide alternatives, to incentivise restaurants & coffee shops to open late on into the night. For young people, the alternatives would be to provide amenities and places to gather. As well as that, and this is a local point, public transport could be made an awful lot more accessible at night (try getting around Paisley at night).
Or is Scotland’s booze culture so ingrained that any attempt to dilute it is doomed to failure? The Chewin’ the Fat sketch (“Gauny have a drink”) is spot on about the relationship many people have with alcohol. Minimum Pricing might have been stifled at birth (which some of us think is a good thing, even if the motives are nebulous to say the least). It does look to have started a discussion on how best to proceed.