PUBS are being urged to make a “special effort” to stock alcohol-free beer in a bid to help prevent drink-driving at Christmas.
Leading Labour politician and former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy made the plea as he claimed one in four bars in Glasgow failed to stock a single non-alcoholic beer.
He also called on pubs to examine the prices of non-alcoholic drinks, saying some of the mark-ups were “incredible”. The teetotal politician carried out a telephone survey of 100 bars and clubs in Glasgow.
He found a quarter of premises did not offer non- alcoholic beers, and that charges for soft drinks and mineral waters varied from 90p to £2.20.
The East Renfrewshire MP and shadow Defence Secretary said pubs could do more to help prevent drink-driving. Murphy said: “We all want to end drink-driving, it’s such a painful crime. Over the festive period, many people will drive into town to avoid long taxi waits and queues. Others agree to be the non-drinking designated driver who drives a group of friends into town.”
While he said the responsibility not to get behind the wheel after drinking lay “first and foremost” with drivers, he added that “pubs could do more”.
“Too few pubs are offering an alcoholic-free beer to these drivers over Christmas and New Year,” said Murphy. “I’d like to see all pubs stock these drinks all year round. But even if they don’t do that then they should make a special effort at this time of the year.
“When people drive into town for a night out, they don’t want to sit there all night drinking soft drinks. Many want the choice of alcohol-free beers or soft drinks; it’s not too much to ask for.”
The MP also urged bars to examine the “incredible” mark-ups charged by some for soft drinks. “It’s one thing having to drink soft drinks for a five or six-hour night out, but it’s another to be charged so much for doing so,” he said.
First Minister Alex Salmond has made tackling Scotland’s troubling relationship with drink a key priority for the SNP government.
In May, the Scottish Government passed its controversial Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill, which sets the price per unit of alcohol at 50p, meaning the price consumers pay will go up. It has yet to be given the go-ahead by the European Union, which has expressed concerns that the plan may be illegal.
The EU’s ruling body, the European Commission, said last month that minimum pricing could restrict imports of foreign alcohol, putting international producers at a competitive disadvantage in Scotland. The EC said minimum pricing is a “disproportionate” response to alcohol-related health problems.
The commission would prefer a wholesale increase in all alcohol prices through raising taxes, which is outwith Holyrood’s control, or unspecified targeted measures in the parts of Scotland where alcohol abuse is a particular problem.