Friday, 3 September 2010

Alcohol is not an essential food item

Yesterday the Scottish government proposed the figure of  45 pence  the minimum price per unit of alcohol. If approved, this measure will affect everyone, casual and social drinkers and those with an alcohol problem.

Is paying more for our alcoholic drinks something we want? From an individual perspective, it is not nice to have to pay more for something considered enjoyable and relaxing. Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is complex. Excessive drinking is socially acceptable within our society and connected with fun and having a “good night out”. However, excessive drinking comes at a cost and we are all paying for collateral damage connected to excessive drinking.

The Scottish Parliamentary Labour Group published yesterday The Report of the Alcohol Commission. The report is an interesting read. For starters, it stresses the need for a national strategy for action on alcohol because there are no magic bullets or quick fix solutions for changing the culture of Scottish drinking. Aye to that.

The writers of the Labour report are not convinced that simply hiking the price of booze will deal by itself with the alcohol problem.  Moreover,  they argue that it has not been done anywhere else in the world. Maybe not, but let me ask you a question. If money is tight all around, is it rocket science to assume that people will buy less alcohol,  simply because it is dearer ? Alcohol is not an essential food item.

Minimum pricing is not about making drinking democratically available to all sectors of society. It is one of many possible steps to be taken to reduce alcohol consumption overall. Taking that step does not preclude a strategy with many other policies attached.

As a society, are we not willing to pay more for a drink if this cuts the alcohol related street-violence, car accidents, domestic situations and increases the overall health of our nation? I trust the answer is AYE!


  1. It would be nice to think increasing the price of a unit will encourage people to drink less, but I have to admit, I have my doubt if it would really work. Okay, perhaps the couple who think nothing of drinking a whole bottle of wine most evenings would think again. That is got to be a benefit for all in society, as you have pointed out.

    But, there are many in our society who will give up food, or buy poorer quality food, to buy booze. It's a long time ago now, but I know my grandfather was one of those people. He always had money for drink - his wife having enough to feed his children was another matter. I know alcohlics will do exactly the same now as he did all those years ago.

    England isn't that far away. If they don't introduce similar measures, people will hire vans to fill with supermarket special offers down south and drive back up. They may even sell it for a profit up here. I know that's illegal, but it will happen, unfortunately.

    Perhaps I'm being very negative. In recent years, the price of cheap booze has dropped dramatically, so this measure will bring alcohol pricing a bit more in line with inflation. We, as a society, need to do something to deal with the sourge on society alcohol makes. This may be a step in the right direction.

  2. Thank you so much for your post. I think that what is important to remember is that this measure is one element as part of a strategy to limit the consumption of alcohol. It is not a magic bullet. Addiction to alcohol requires specialist groups and medical treatments.


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