I am rather confused by Jeff’s post on the SNP’s new proposals designed to curb anti-social drinking. He says that the SNP’s approach is radical and is proof that the SNP is not just populist. But when you look at the proposals, they are a who’s who of reactionary measures that could well have been lifted straight out of a cliché-ridden Daily Excess editorial.
Let’s look at the list as laid out by Jeff.
Raise the limit for purchasing alcohol in off-licenses to 21
Well right away this is about as populist as policies get. Blame it on the yoof. The media loves to do it, and the politicians love to throw around these age limits. They get to look “tough” by passing some draconian legislation that adversely affects someone. And who better to do this to than the youth, who do not vote in high numbers because they are already so disenchanted? SNP wins by looking tough without losing any votes.
Besides that, what is this age limit supposed to achieve? We all know that these age limits are about as workable as a chocolate kettle. Given that there is currently an age limit of 18 and under-18s still find it easy enough to get their hands on alcohol, what makes anyone think that raising the limit by a few years will improve the situation any?
There is nothing to suggest that raising that limit to 21 will make it any more difficult for rowdy youths to get their hands on alcohol. And why should perfectly law-abiding 18-20 year olds who intend to drink alcohol responsibly be prohibited from doing so?
The fact is that those youths who really want to get alcohol will just nick it from their dad’s cabinet. Or their friend’s dad’s cabinet. Or their uncle’s cabinet. Or anywhere they can get it from. That is assuming they haven’t just got someone else who is above 21 to buy it for them, as Scottish Tory Boy points out.
Congratulations SNP — you have made it almost impossible for law-abiding drinkers to get their hands on alcohol, whereas the rowdy contingent are encouraged into behaving even more rowdily.
And if you want people to act like adults, it’s probably not the best idea to treat them like kids.
Reprice drinks to a minimum of 35p per unit of alcohol
You want a continental “café-style” drinking culture? Then raising the price of alcohol is the last thing you should do.
Why is that then? Well, increasing the price of alcohol will mean it will make little sense to just have one or two drinks with a meal. It will be too expensive for little return. If alcohol costs three or four times more than coffee, no-one will drink it like coffee. Instead, people will use alcohol by saving up their money for a big night out. The result? More binge drinking.
Jeff says that the SNP’s policies are remarkably similar to those of Sweden. He is correct. Jeff also says that “I can easily imagine [they] don’t have the same alcohol-dependency and vandal culture that we have here.” Unfortunately, Jeff hasn’t done his research because Scandinavia — where alcohol is much more expensive than it is here — has a notorious binge drinking problem.
Nor is the USA exactly a haven of responsible drinking. Has he never heard of the American phenomenon of “spring break”? These North American events are legendary for their excessive binge drinking and rowdy behaviour. Nor do I think of Australia as one of the most sober nations in the world!
Clearly, simply raising the price of alcohol won’t encourage people to stop binge drinking. In fact, if anything, it will have the opposite effect.
Have dedicated [alcohol] checkouts in some of the larger supermarkets
I’m not exactly sure what this idea is supposed to achieve. Jeff says it is to create an “inconvenience of having to go for a separate checkout to buy alcohol.” But what does it mean? Walking a few yards? If people will have already travel all the way to the supermarket, having them walk to a different checkout is hardly going to put anyone off.
And think about the scenario. You’ve got some irresponsible people who only go to the supermarket to buy some bottles. They just go to the alcohol checkout, pay for their goods and then saunter off to the park to cause some fuss. Then you’ve got the responsible drinkers who want to enjoy a few glasses with their meals. These people are genuinely inconvenienced, as they have to go to the checkout twice — once to pay for their food, and another time to pay for their alcohol.
Yet again, the responsible drinkers are punished whereas the troublemakers hardly bat an eyelid. Yet another sloppy policy.
Increase of financial support for alcohol prevention, treatment and support services
No complaints here. This seems sensible enough to me.
This is not to say that there is not a problem with irresponsible binge-drinking and rowdy neds in the streets. Jeff rightly notes that Scotland has a problem and it’s not good enough just to sit there and let it continue. The point is that these measures will do absolutely nothing to curb binge drinking. If anything, they will exacerbate the problems while making life difficult for the majority who drink sensibly.
Unfortunately — as we see from governments of all shades time and again — the temptation for a government faced with a problem is just to do something, anything. Preferably sounding tough. Then declare the problem solved. No matter whether the solution is well thought-through or planned out.