Monday, 16 June 2008

More Gnat gimmicks on booze

I have blogged before about the Gnats' tendency to come up with eye-catching but ineffective gimmicks to tackle the problems of binge drinking in Scotland. And they're at it again.

This latest idea is particularly nonsensical, as I'm not even sure that the Scottish Government has the power to set a minimum price for alcohol. Would it not be illegal under European law for government to set a minimum price for any product?

Even if that problem can be avoided, I would also question whether the Scottish Government has the power under the Scotland Act to carry out such a policy. Both taxation of alcohol and business regulation are powers reserved to Westminster under the devolution settlement, and surely setting a minimum price for booze would fall under one or other of those categories.

And even if the Scottish Government did have the power, it would still be a bad idea. It's not going to stop people getting hold of booze, except maybe at the margins at best. The cost of enforcement would be fairly significant. It would have an impact on small retailers. And it does nothing to tackle the educational and cultural issues of Scotland's love affair with booze.

The other idea which has been floated today, that of raising the legal age for off-licence sales from 18 to 21, is also dumb. Are the Gnats saying it's OK for youngsters to get drunk in pubs aged 18 but not to do so at home? Utterly bizarre. Raising the age for off sales will do nothing to stop younger people getting their hands on booze, given the very real problems there are already with under-age drink sales. What we need is better enforcement of existing laws, not new ones which won't work.

As I've said before, the Gnats should forget about the irrelevant gimmicks and new laws when tackling Scotland's booze culture. They need to realise that it's a long-term issue, which can only be tackled by better education about booze and a cultural shift in the country's attitude towards drink. Anything else is just pissing in the wind.

1 comment:

Scottish Toryboy said...

It is only "eye-catching" because it is so ridiculous and unworkable.

Back to the drawing board I think...

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