Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Sunday, 15 June 2008 14:23 UK

Off-licence age could rise to 21

Alcohol on shop shelves
Ministers have several proposals for dealing with booze culture

The age for buying alcohol from supermarkets and off-licences in Scotland could rise from 18 to 21.

Scottish ministers said it was time for radical action in the fight against Scotland's binge-drinking culture.

But retailers and student leaders said the plan, which would see 18-year-olds still being served in pubs, was "confusing" and a "blunt instrument".

The Scottish Government will announce its proposals to deal with the problem during the next week.

Other possible measures may include an increase in the cost of alcoholic drinks and an end to cut-price alcohol deals in shops and supermarkets.

Supermarkets have totally failed to respond to the obviously irresponsible promotions that they have within their stores
Paul Waterson
Scottish Licensed Trade Association

But plans to make it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy alcohol to take away went down badly with the Scottish Retail Consortium.

Its director Fiona Moriarty said it was more important to educate young people to drink responsibly.

She added: "This mixed message, that it is OK to drink in pubs and clubs, but that it is not OK to buy something to drink responsibly in your own home, is extremely confusing."

Her call was echoed by James Alexander, president of NUS Scotland, who argued 18-year-olds were old enough to take responsibility.

He told BBC Scotland's Politics Show: "My advice is not to take the easy option - this is a very blunt instrument - but actually to do the very challenging thing, which is to change people's attitudes towards alcohol, to change the culture in this country around binge drinking, which is not going to change by simply changing the age. That's going to make no impact at all."

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association - which represents pubs and clubs - said it was time for ministers to take strong action.

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"Over the last couple of years the supermarkets have totally failed to respond to the obviously irresponsible promotions that they have within their stores," he said.

"There's a total lack of understanding that the prices they are charging, which means alcohol is often cheaper than water, is exacerbating the problem in Scotland."

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon promised bold proposals to deal with the issue.

She told BBC Scotland: "We face a big problem. The government's not anti-alcohol. It is perfectly acceptable to enjoy alcohol responsibly, but we are concerned about alcohol misuse.

Graph showing link between drink and homicide

"It has an impact on crime and anti-social behaviour and it has taken a big toll on our health - we've got the fastest increasing rates of liver cirrhosis in the whole of the world, almost."

The government's plan will come after the success of a scheme in Armadale, West Lothian.

Off-licences in the town refused to sell alcohol to under-21s on Friday and Saturdays, during which assaults, vandalism and general complaints about young people decreased.


SEE ALSO
Pilot booze ban hailed a success
02 May 08 |  Scotland
Cut-price alcohol deals face ban
05 Sep 07 |  Scotland
Under-age buyers test drink sales
30 May 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Licences pulled for alcohol sales
21 May 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
MacAskill wants alcohol tax rise
25 Feb 08 |  Scotland

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