Scotland ploughs ahead with drinking clampdown

By staff

The Scottish government is set to plough ahead with some of the furthest reaching legislation on drinking in the western world, despite outrage from some opposition MSPs.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon and justice secretary Kenny MacAskill unveiled the policy framework today, which includes sections calling for the purchasing age to be raised to 21, and a minimum price per unit.

The government is desperately trying to make headway on Scotland’s problems with alcohol.
Over £225 billion are spent on the health and crime effects of alcohol misuse a year north of the border.

But Labour, Conservatives and retail groups have been vociferous in condemning the proposals.

“This package of proposals is a recipe for disaster,” said Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker.

“Not only does it contain some frankly preposterous proposals but the sheer scale of the bill means it will be virtually impossible to scrutinise effectively.”

There was support for that stance from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), whose director, Fiona Moriarty, said: “There are far too many big issues here.

“Given the industry is facing unprecedented changes to its licensing laws and the challenging economic times in which we find ourselves, introducing this raft of controversial proposals simply does not make sense.”

Even the Scottish national party’s (SNP) student wing opposed some of the measures, specifically the change in the purchasing age.

Campaigners are unimpressed with the range of proposals in the bill, which includes rules on disclosure of evidence, retention of DNA evidence, sentencing and re-offending among other policy areas.

The Tories condemned the two most contentious aspects of the bill – raising the purchase age and imposing a minimum price for units of alcohol.

“It is extraordinarily arrogant of the SNP to press ahead with discredited plans to criminalise those under 21 who want to purchase alcohol from off-sales,” said Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservatives’ deputy leader.