Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Bold action to tackle alcohol misuse
A year ago Holyrood was debating the Alcohol Bill.
One of its key provisions, for a minimum price per unit of alcohol, was removed by MSPs before the final vote.
An outcome of the SNP’s re-election means they can reintroduce this measure, and their majority means it is almost certain to become law.
The Church of Scotland fully supports the Government on this, or rather I could say that the Government is in line with the Church, as we first called for a minimum price per unit of alcohol way back in the early 1980s.
We need radical action, as despite years of talk about education programmes and attitudinal change, as a nation Scotland has a deeply troubling relationship with alcohol.
I read last week that Professor Tim Stockwell of the Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia, Canada, had urged MSPs to transform alcohol policy by introducing minimum pricing. His research shows that minimum pricing has worked in Canada where there has been a fall in the level of drinking.
Critics of minimum pricing claim it is no ‘magic bullet’ that it alone will solve all alcohol-related problems. Any reasonable person would likely agree. But the thing is minimum pricing is not being introduced by itself, but as part of broader Government and voluntary initiatives, including NHS health living campaigns, education in schools, AA groups and abstinence campaigns. However all these other programmes are not enough, we need to try everything we can or the costs of alcohol misuse will continue to grow.
So I am interested in debating the merits of the plan revealed in last week's Herald (sorry no link) to have separate queues and tills in supermarkets for alcohol, and putting a rateable levy on supermarkets based on alcohol sales (currently supermarkets are only taxed on the size of their shop floor).
The Herald article quotes an unnamed source from the Scottish Retail Consortium: “Demonising alcohol is not the answer.” I say, “Yes, it is”. Alcohol has been demonising our neighbours for too long, we need to make excessive drinking socially unacceptable.