Friday, 21 March 2008

Gnats lose it on booze

More evidence that the Gnats don't have a clue how to tackle Scotland's booze culture.

Following on from justice minister Kenny MacAskill's belief that shoving up taxes on booze will somehow solve the problem of binge drinking comes news that public health minister Shona Robison is considering increasing the age at which alcohol can be legally bought.

This is simply daft. Scotland already has a problem with thousands of under-age people buying drink every single week. Increasing the alcohol buying age from 18 to 21 will just make this problem worse, not better. Indeed, those aged 18-21 are likely to binge drink even more as a result, as they'd be denied access to pubs and would instead be drinking on the streets or at home, as many teenagers do already.

This is another example of the Gnats wanting to penalise everyone, in order to be seen to be acting tough on a problem which they don't actually have any real idea how to solve.

Not only would increasing the age for buying booze be ineffective, it's also unnecessary. Legislation already exists to take the licence to sell booze away from anyone found guilty of supplying alcohol to under-age people. Enforcing that properly would be a start, but that might mean the Gnats having to take action, rather than just thinking up gimmicks which won't solve the problem anyway.

And we ought to recognise that this obsession with under-age drinking can make us lose sight of the real problem: encouraging people to drink responsibly. At any age, including teenagers, you can find people who can drink sensibly while others just get out of it whenever they can.

Encouraging a responsible attitude to drinking requires a cultural shift which will take decades to achieve, but it is the only realistic way in which Scotland's binge drinking problem can be tackled. Gimmicks like raising the alcohol buying age are an irrelevant distraction.


Stephen B said...

Apart from cuddling underage drinkers and telling them that it's all really society's fault, what do the Lib dem's propose to do about the issue?

On another tack, it is just me or is it lefty-week for Alex Salmond where he needs to balance out the 'so-right-wing-its-almost-fascism' (© most excitable opposition social democrats in the Parliament) budget measures with some raw red meat for the hairy ideologues - the Iraq and 'soak the rich' LIT drums have been both in evidence recently for example.

Bernard Salmon said...

Better parenting and better education about the effects of alcohol will both be key, but both are very much longer term measures which don't appeal to politicians wanting an eye-catching gimmick to make it look as though they're tackling a problem. Better enforcement of existing legislation, as I said in my piece, is also required.

Stephen B said...

Should this be done alongside the legalization of cannabis?

Being conservative in my outlook, I am skeptical that many people can reach the independent, rational and enlightened attitude to themselves and their fellow man that many of the notions of Liberalism depend upon.

Put simply, silly people will act like children unless there is a counterforce of some type stopping them. The counterforce doesn't have to be physical - indeed the societal pressure against drink driving is a good example of how groups can be authoritarian without resorting to force.

But it does sometimes come down to governments wielding the 'bully stick' to try to make a difference. If we were talking about global warming here, for example, I suspect that you would agree that a lot of people can't be trusted to do the right thing and that 'something must be done.'

Bernard Salmon said...

Legalisation of cannabis: yes, why not?
On the global warming point, I actually think that a lot can be done by encouraging people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, using green taxes where necessary. I think if it is just a case of the government wielding a bully stick, green measures will in general fail.
On the original point, should we do our bit for the cause of binge drinking some time?

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