Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 20:18 UK

Plan for 'minimum priced' alcohol

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

The Scottish Government is considering imposing a minimum price for alcohol based on its strength, BBC Scotland understands.

It will be one of the measures put forward by ministers on how to tackle Scotland's serious alcohol problem.

Increasing the age for buying drink from off-licences in Scotland from 18 to 21 is another suggestion.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said increasing price should be welcomed.

It is believed that drink-related problems cost Scottish society 2bn each year.

The government's wide-ranging package will be made public on Tuesday.

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

Alcohol Focus chief executive Jack Law said making it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy alcohol would make a difference.

"One of the problems we're trying to address is young people's binge drinking," he said.

"And one of the features of young people's binge drinking is the fact that they pre-load, that is, they buy some alcohol before they go out, and drink it before they go out for an evening.

"They tend to buy more and drink more, and drink it in the home, so this is one way of tackling that."

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 director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, 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.

"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."

Anti-social behaviour

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.

"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.

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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