27th September 2010


The Scottish Government was left drowning their sorrows this week after another of its flagship policies floundered on the rocks.

Plans to hike up the price of alcohol fell by the wayside this week but the debate on how to tackle Scotland’s battle with the booze rages on.

The proposals to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol were ill-thought out, unpopular and possibly illegal.

The cross-party health committee rejected them out of hand and I expect the parliament to reach the same verdict when the bill is considered later this year.

While the minimum pricing proposals found some favour with doctors and police chiefs, moderate drinkers were left asking why they were being punished for the mistakes of others.

And even the so-called experts were forced to admit that the impact on the hardened drinkers we should be focussing on was marginal.

I agree that action has to be taken to curb the devastating impact alcohol has on Scottish life and the current toll on our hospitals and courts cannot be sustained

But I don’t accept that banning people from buying the Marks and Spencers meal deal is the way to tackle it.

All it would achieve is setting a new ‘cheap’ for those determined to keep abusing alcohol and prevent people living on low incomes or fixed pensions from enjoying a social drink.

At the same time, supermarkets and retailers would enjoy a £140 million windfall while the taxpayer gets nothing.

A good start would be enforcing the laws we already had to stop alcohol getting into the hands of young people and penalising the unscrupulous shopkeepers.

And we need to work across advertising, licensing, criminal justice, social work, healthcare and education to change Scotland’s drinking culture.

It might not get the SNP government in Edinburgh its big headline but it could just mean Scotland wins its battle with the bottle.