Cut caffeine and tag bottles to curb Scotland’s booze culture, say Labour

Labour will outline new proposals for tackling Scotland's drink problem
Labour will outline new proposals for tackling Scotland's drink problem
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NEW laws aimed at tackling “Scotland’s drink problem” will be unveiled by Labour today.

The party’s proposals will target problem drinks such as Buckfast tonic wine and crack down on shops which sell alcohol to underage drinkers.

Labour is the only major party at Holyrood that opposes the Scottish government’s plans for a minimum alcohol price and today’s move is partly aimed at countering its growing isolation on the issue.

The proposed bill, which contains a total of 14 measures, will span public health and criminal justice policy and will be steered through parliament by a former doctor and senior police officer, both now Labour MSPs.

Dr Richard Simpson, the party’s public health spokesman, said: “Members of all political parties are determined to tackle Scotland’s drink problem, but unfortunately, there is no one magic silver bullet.

“This is a complex problem that requires complex solutions. That is why Scottish Labour are launching not just one idea, but a comprehensive package of measures that we believe will help crack the culture of alcohol in Scotland.

“By contrast the SNP government has come up with a single proposal and has drafted its minimum unit pricing bill so narrowly it has shut down other ideas.”

The party will formally lodge its bill at Holyrood today and launch its consultation, entitled “Shifting the culture”.

The proposals include restricting caffeine levels in pre-mixed caffeinated alcohol drinks such as Buckfast, which research has found can increase aggression and anxiety and the likelihood of violence.

A previous Labour attempt to introduce a similar crackdown on Buckfast two years ago was rejected by MSPs.

Other proposed measures would see councils given powers to roll out “bottle tagging” in problem areas, following successful pilots in Dundee and Fife. Under this proposal, retailers would be asked to mark bottles with an invisible code, to allow police to trace the seller if young drinkers are found with a tagged item.

Arrest referral schemes designed to give individuals access to treatment and care services at the time of arrest, regardless of the eventual case outcome, are also proposed.

Labour also aims to close a loophole in the quantity discounting restrictions for multi-packs of drink.

Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, former head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, said: “People who supply alcohol to young people need to realise that they are not only breaking the law, but fuelling antisocial behaviour that makes other people’s lives a misery.”

However, it seems unlikely that the bill will secure the the SNP backing it would needs to be passed, after Labour’s opposition to minimum pricing. This will be introduced later in the year, with health secretary Nicola Sturgeon determined to crack down on cheap supermarket cider and wine, which can often cost less than water.