'Tag every bottle of alcohol to trace adults who supply child drinkers'

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BOTTLES of alcohol should be tagged so adults buying drink for under-18s can be traced by police, a Labour MSP has said.

Under the scheme, bottles would bear a printed barcode enabling authorities to track whether legally bought alcohol has been given to youngsters.

The scheme, which is already being piloted in problem areas of Dundee, involves the police seizing alcohol from under-18s and then using the coded bottle labels to trace where the drink was bought from.

Officers then use CCTV from the shop to identify who bought the drink - whether it was an adult or an under-age customer being illegally sold it.

Labour's community safety spokesman James Kelly wants to roll out the scheme to other parts of the country and says the Scottish Government should encourage licensing boards to sign up to the initiative.

Although the scheme aims to catch shops selling alcohol to under-age customers, it is also used to target "proxy purchases" - adults buying drink on behalf of minors.

The scheme is understood to cost less than 100 per shop to run and supporters claim it would reduce alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour in areas with under-age drinking problems.

The MSP said: "This innovative but simple approach will hopefully help bring to justice those peddling booze to young people. People who supply alcohol to young people need to realise that what they are doing is not only breaking the law, but all too often is fuelling antisocial behaviour that makes other people's lives a misery.

"I urge licensing boards to adopt this new approach to hammer home the message that supplying under-agers with alcohol is never acceptable and will not be tolerated."

Those caught supplying alcohol to those under the age of 18 would be reported to the procurator-fiscal and could be hit with a fine of up to 5,000 or a prison sentence.

Although the scheme is intended to be voluntary, signing up to take part in the initiative could be a condition for the granting of an alcohol licence to a newly opened shop or a business that wanted to begin selling drink.

The call to roll out the bottle- labelling scheme comes after the Scottish Government's flagship minimum pricing policy was blocked by opposition parties at Holyrood.

A Holyrood spokesman said: "The Scottish Government has always supported and encouraged the police to make use of bottle-tagging in its fight against under-age drinking.

"As an intelligence-led tool, it can help forces crack down on the problem by proving that certain shops are selling alcohol to under-18s. Bottle-tagging remains an operational matter for police, often deployed during targeted exercises against under-age drinking."However, we would caution against the blanket deployment of this measure, to ensure it remains effective."

A licensing board member from Aberdeen City Council backed the call to tag alcohol bottles, which, he said, would "reduce antisocial behaviour in Scotland's big cities".

Labour councillor Willie Young said: "This would a great way of stopping under-18s getting hold of alcohol, as it would deter adults from buying drink and passing it on.

"I know that in parts of Aberdeen we have a problem with young people drinking alcohol when they are under age and this leading to antisocial behaviour.

"That's why we need a new approach to reduce anti- social behaviour in Scotland's big cities."

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