Scottish ministers unleash alcohol crackdown
Published:  17 June, 2008

Scottish ministers have launched a sobering crusade against alcohol abuse, proposing minimum drinks prices and a ban on sales to under-21s in supermarkets and off-licences.

The government’s new alcohol strategy would also end three-for-two deals on drinks and may force retailers to pay a “social responsibility” fee to help deal with drink-related crime.

Drinks in shops would be treated similarly to cigarettes with the creation of alcohol-only checkouts.

The hardline strategy, although widely anticipated, will come up against tough resistance from drinks industry bodies in the forthcoming consultation period. Students’ unions are also opposed to a ban on off-trade sales to under-21s.

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, said the plan would pile misery onto consumers: "The message is simple. They want Scottish families to pay more tax."

Alcohol misuse costs Scottish taxpayers £2.25bn per year, government figures claim.

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said on Tuesday: "We can no longer sit back and let alcohol misuse continue to take its shocking toll on our criminal justice system, health service and economy. In criminal justice alone we know that two-thirds of murders are fuelled by drink and almost half of prisoners admitting to being drunk when they offended.”

He added the strategy can “kick-start a long-term cultural shift” in attitudes to drinking.

Gavin Partington, spokesperson for the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, accused ministers of “headline grabbing”.

He told OLN the proposed ban on sales to under-21s “does not stand up to serious scrutiny”. Those 18 and over would still be allowed to drink in pubs, and several critics raised the prospect of booze runs to northern England.

Read the full strategy report here.

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