Thursday, 11 November 2010

After Minimum Pricing…

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.

4 comments:

tris said...

I've always thought that minimum pricing was a bad idea. The average person going out for a Friday night that will involve drink, entry to a club, cigarettes, possibly a meal and a tax home will not be discouraged from drinking and falling over because we put 10p on the pint.

The only way that works (at least to a certain extent) is to do what some other northern countries have done and that is make drink exorbitant in price....£5 a nip, £7 a pint, £18 for a mediocre supermarket wine.

I’m kinda with Annabel Goldie on this. It is illegal to sell drink to someone who is drunk. Why is this not enforced and licences withdrawn from people who do it? It’s illegal to be drunk and disorderly in the street, so why don’t we arrest the people who are?

Of course that doesn’t stop people sitting at home getting legless, but in honesty, that is much less harmful to society than us having to pick our way over broken bottles, pools of vomit, bits of carryout, and piss on Saturday mornings.

It’s not the answer to everything, but it deals with a few problems.

Allan said...

Tris.

I think the problem with that is that the Police would point to overcrowded cells and streached police resources.

I happen to agree with you, in the respect that the Police are prehaps being a little too soft with publicans who step out of line and people who make a nuicence while drunk. I would also ask why the police do not "lift" under age drinkers?

tris said...

Yes Allan, I know they would, but I think it's down this road we muct go.

If things are illegal, then they are illegal. Obviously I'd start with the publicans, then perhaps the drunks wouldn't be so thick on the ground (litterally)

I also believe that education should have a role to play. Kids really have to learn how much damage alcohol does to young livers, and how they'll all be dead by 35 if they keep at it.

I'd like to see the police lift the kids that stand around on the corners drinking and getting ratted, at about 10 11 12... But you take them home and their parents are lying stoned or drunk.... what do you do with them?

Like so much else we've let it all go too far.

Belinda said...

'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.'

I completely disagree with this. I'm a part time cashier in a shop and I've been age-verifying people for years. I think raising the age to 21 would not make it any easier at all to assess people's eligibility to buy alcohol. People mature (physically) far more quickly between 16 and 19 than they do afterwards. At 18 they still usually don't look like fully fledged adults in my eyes, but they are still legally of age and eligible to buy booze. A reasonable policy of Challenge 21 would allow checking with a reasonable margin of error. IMO Challenge 25 is OTT and results in people in their late 20s getting refused booze and tobacco because they are unfortunate enough to look young and haven't got the requisite ID. When I say look young, they look young enough to be required to show ID under a Challenge 25 policy but not less than 18. If someone looks 22 they are with almost overwhelming certainty over 18 and there is no reason whatever not to serve them unless they are drunk.

Due care in not selling to minors is essential, but this simply means being satisfied that people are of age, and requiring ID up to about 21. In shops it's not hard. It might be harder in night clubs where young adults go in greater numbers.