Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 10:48 UK

Minister sees booze sales trial

Shona Robison and Insp Craig Dewar visit an off-licence in Fife
The public health minister met traders and the local police inspector in Cupar

Scotland's public health minister has visited a community in Fife where a booze ban has led to a drop in crime.

Off-licences in Cupar have signed up to a voluntary agreement with the police where sales of alcohol to under-21s are banned on Friday and Saturday nights.

Meeting a trader who has seen a drop in anti-social behaviour, Shona Robison said local residents felt safer.

Police figures suggest a 58% drop in calls about young people causing trouble since the scheme began.

Ms Robison told the BBC Scotland news website: "The results from the scheme operating here in Cupar and Springfield are very interesting indeed.

"I have spoken to some of the community here who are supporting it. They feel that their community is safer and they have not got the same levels of anti-social behaviour.

At the weekends I had many youths hanging about in front of my shop under the influence of alcohol
Paul Caira

"We are of course consulting as a government about whether or not we should have a national scheme of under-21s for off-sales and we will be looking at the pilots both here and in Armadale."

Fife Constabulary organised the scheme, which is similar to the one operating in West Lothian, following complaints about youth disorder in the area.

It has resulted in a fall of 44% in the number of offences committed in Cupar and Springfield.

Paul Caira, who runs Central Cafe in Cupar, said: "At the weekends I had many youths hanging about in front of my shop under the influence of alcohol.

"That made it very difficult for customers to come into my shop and I was losing a lot of trade."

'Demonising youths'

The Liberal Democrat MSP for North-East Fife, Iain Smith, has opposed the scheme since it began.

He said: "Everyone is aware that there is a problem for under-age drinking but unfortunately this particular experiment is tackling people who are legally entitled to buy drink and suggesting they are the problem.

"I am not convinced that is the case. I am sure this experiment will work because there is an increased police presence and enforcement by shopkeepers of under-age drinking problems but I am not sure it is the right approach for the long-term.

"It is demonising all young people and is not the approach the Liberal Democrats would take."

But Ms Robison said: "It is not about demonising young people, it's just about accepting that Scotland has a problem with alcohol misuse, that young people start to drink early in Scotland and it is about dealing with that problem."

Fife MSP launches drinks petition
26 Jun 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
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