Readers' letters: Minimum alcohol pricing policy has failed

With Public Health Scotland under pressure from the BMA and charities like Alcohol Focus to increase minimum alcohol pricing to 65p a unit; one is reminded of the maxim attributed to Albert Einstein - the definition of insanity is to keep repeating something in the belief one will get a different result.

Scotland became the first country in the world to bring in minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in May 2018
Scotland became the first country in the world to bring in minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in May 2018

Minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland has been an abject failure.The time has come to abandon this ineffective policy.

Why should sensible, moderate, social drinkers be inconvenienced having to switch from cider (cider sales are down 22 per cent since 2018); have to pay more for alcohol and purchase it after 10am?

Consumers have paid an additional £270m in four years and for what?

The policy was based on the flawed Sheffield Alcohol Policy model which seemed unaware a computer repeats assumptions back at you!

Sheffield claimed there would be fewer alcohol specific deaths but the death rate is the highest since 2011.They said there would be fewer A&E admissions but A&E report no discernible difference.

They were sure there would be a decline in alcohol consumption.There wasn't; but heavy drinkers moved to stronger spirits (notably vodka). Ironically Buckfast fortified wine was unaffected. Scots drink 9.4 litres of pure alcohol a year but in England the figure is 9 litres.

Public Health Scotland has reported that alcohol related deaths are 5 times more likely in areas of deprivation. Heavy drinkers were cutting back on food, utility bill payments and family necessities to fund their addiction. Yes it is an addiction, and this was never going to be a silver bullet given the withdrawal symptoms they would have encountered.

The downside is it has made the public more sceptical of public health modelling.Why did a flawed computer model come to be seen as the definitive source of evidence for an untried policy?There was a frankly naïve, false assumption that heavy drinkers are more responsive to price rises yet there has been no lack of research since 1995 to refute that.

Did it really demand expensive academic research to learn that heavy drinkers would do anything to fund their habit? This patronising, regressive, policy should be ditched.

John V Lloyd Inverkeithing

Westminter woes

Ken Currie ( letters, June 25) does not address the appalling Westminster governance – illegal, corrupt, cruel and increasingly authoritarian – for which Scotland did not vote.

Whatever the devolved Scottish government has done, it is not comparable and it has limited powers, now under attack. Mr Johnson’s government does not respect the rule of law, rights or devolution and imposed hard a Brexit.

The Tories can by-pass Holyrood through the Internal Market Act and now the Procurement Bill following Brexit.

They can legislate in devolved areas, as in England, like the NHS and therefore privatise. Brexit also drives inflation including food costs and is an ongoing economic disaster.

Mr Johnson’s chilling Bill of Rights abolishes the Human Rights Act which is for all, used by ordinary people for 20 years, to challenge authorities. To protect our democracy, economy and public services and people we need independence rapidly.

The Scots language has been spoken in Scotland for centuries. Two or three centuries pre-Union, Scots was the language of law It was used for official business. Certain Acts of the (original) Scottish Parliament are still in force today, eg the Leases Act 1449.

Scotland has a proud and very long history as an independent country and needs to regain this and return close to the EU.

Scotland Is well capable, rich enough and big enough much more so than many. A constitution will define the checks and balances for responsible and safe democratic governance.

Pol Yates, Edinburgh

McCartney magic

How heartening to hear Sir Paul McCartney headlining at Glastonbury on Saturday evening. His vitality at over 80 was amazing.It was uplifting to hear his line up with surprise appearances from Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl.It kept us over 70s up till past midnight, thanks to the BBC and all the folk Paul thanked for the backstage crew.What a relief from the other horrors of the world. Thank you so much Glastonbury.

Fiona Garwood, Edinburgh

Green Belt

Many of us in North East Fife will sympathise with Julia Scott and Tom Johnstone’s wish to preserve the Green Belt rather than having yet another supermarket built at Straiton which Midlothian councillors have just approved (Letter 24 June).

We had a similar situation from early 2013 to mid-2016. Fife Council approved its own application to build our secondary school on Green Belt farmland, on the wrong side of town for two-thirds of its pupils and with numerous other disadvantages, including the payment of a windfall gain to the private landowner of almost £2million. The then government minister, one Derek Mackay currently in the news, could have called it in for review but chose not to, accepting too readily that the Council had “discharged its duty”.

Three retired senior teachers from the school set up a campaign group, supported morally and financially by about 200 citizens, to apply for a judicial review. After a setback when the judge accepted the Council’s case, the group won their case on appeal when three senior judges from the Inner House of the Court of Session, who all clearly knew St. Andrews well, unanimously quashed the Council’s plan as unlawful.

The Council then renewed its discussions with the university (which had collapsed in 2011 for unexplained reasons) leading to their agreement to develop the school on a far superior site on the right side of town. It was completed one year ago to great acclaim.

So it’s not easy, but with enough local support the Scott/Johnstone team might well win their case and even have their costs refunded.

John Birkett, St Andrews

Rail strategy

It was interesting that a major article in The Scotsman of 24 June over rail strikes contained not a single reference to the fact that the SNP have cut £100 milion from the rail infrastructure budget over the next two years and slashed one in eight trains from the pre-covid timetable (Scotsman of 20/8/20) with not a single RMT demonstration at Holyrood.

The major problem facing the rail industry is that, if the drive by the First Minister to expand working from home continues, it means passenger levels are only around 60 per cent of pre-covid figures and there needs to be an assessment of how to match service levels to the reduced demand.

The 40 per cent collapse in revenue income means the present timetable is being subsidised by the taxpayer, but what is the point of running trains at levels that are not attactive to the fare-paying public?

Time, surely, for the two sides to sit down and agree on a strategy that will ensure demand matches supply with the minimum hit to the taxpayer - especially as, in Scotland, areas such as Durness, Fraserburgh, Braemar, Ullapool, Campbeltown, Kirhcudbright or Kelso have no access to the rail network !

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas

SNP damp squib

Nicola Sturgeon ought to have nipped the Grady/Blackford affair in the bud considering her "important" announcement this Tuesday.

The fact that she has not is telling. This is a bad news story for her party yet she is allowing it to run.

Couple this with the fact that despite a more valid reason than usual for the independence march on Saturday at, of all places, Bannockburn, it attracted a very small crowd.

The message is that even Ms Sturgeon herself must realise her game is over. Her latest approach: that the cost-of-living crisis could be solved by independence is simply ludicrous.

Scotland's budgets are being cut by the SNP/Green alliance. If it was doing so well there would be a surplus despite Westminster.

Tuesday's announcement is shaping up to be a damp squib not the fireworks originally promised.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Tactical voting

The two recent by-elections in England have shown, more than anything else the perhaps unstoppable power, of tactical voting across the UK.

One Labour and one Lib Dem candidate losing their deposits is meaningless in the bigger scheme of things.

If employed in Scotland, it could mean an end at long last to SNP hegemony and the nationalist political stranglehold crippling this country.

And with that, the let’s say less than worthy representatives it ensures continually in Westminster and Holyrood as well as no more ferry and census fiascos and all the other countless examples of sheer incompetence and mis-management this country has been suffering for a very long time.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Toying with guns

Despite worsening anti-social behaviour, drugs and rapes in the country, West Mercia Police still managed to find the resources to send two police officers armed with submachine guns to takedown and handcuff a terrified child in Droitwich at 6pm on Thursday, before giving him a dressing down for being "armed" with what was clearly a plastic toy gun to anyone but Mr Magoo.

But is it any wonder the police proved so clueless when they spend more time on "incorrect pronouns" than dealing with real crime to be able to tell the difference between an armed robber and a child with a toy gun?

Mark Boyle, Johnstone

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