Alcohol charity urges Holyrood to target middle-class drinkers

Stock image. A charity are urging middle class drinkers to reduce intake.
Stock image. A charity are urging middle class drinkers to reduce intake.
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A charitiy is pushing for tougher rules limiting alcohol discounts in an effort to tackle the middle-class drinking culture in Scotland.

Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) will urge the Scottish Government to ban shops from offering cut price deals under radical plans to tackle the country’s drink problems.

Recent figures show that 31.2 of 100,000 male deaths in Scotland in 2014 were due to alcohol, compared to 18.1 in England and 19.9 in Wales.

Recommendations in new report Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol – expected to be passed by ministers by the end of the month – include stopping shops and supermarkets from offering cut-price alcohol deals.

Other recommendations by the charity include banning drinks firms from sponsoring major events in Scotland, including sports and music festivals.

AFS chief executive Alison Douglas,said: “To reduce the immense harm caused to people’s health, their families and our communities, we need to increase the price of the cheapest alcohol. Shops and supermarkets constantly promote alcohol on the basis of price alone but alcohol isn’t like other groceries.

“It is an age-restricted, addictive product that causes a great deal of harm, so promoting ‘great prices’ and ‘special offers’ should be prohibited because it manipulates consumers into buying more.”

The report by the charity includes recommending “Prohibiting alcohol advertising and advertising in public spaces. Phase out alcohol sponsorship of sports events, music and cultural events. Restrict alcohol advertising content to factual information, such as composition, origin and means of production.”

Ewan Macdonald-Russell, head of policy at the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said: “Scotland already has a restrictive and complicated licensing regime which restricts the manner and approach retailers can take to promoting alcohol products.

“These proposals are unlikely to have a significant effect on the problems of alcohol abuse but will definitely hit ordinary Scots who are just looking for a good deal on their weekly bottle of wine.”

Scottish Conservative public health spokesman Miles Briggs, said: “It must be remembered that most people consume alcohol responsibly. A total ban would prove unfair for the vast majority who are moderate drinkers.

“It is also worth noting that an outright ban on alcoholic-based products will have a negative impact on the wider economy.

“While we very much recognise problem drinking is a significant public health challenge, we think the focus should be on providing the best possible information and education to individuals about the risk of excessive alcohol consumption and working closely with the drinks industry on new initiatives.”
Rosemary Gallagher, of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Many events, and related jobs, would not exist without sponsorship and subsequent benefits to the economy and society.”

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: “Scotland has a difficult relationship with alcohol, with the most harm being caused by cheap, high-strength alcohol. We remain committed to minimum unit pricing. We have already banned multi-buy discounts.”