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COLIN CAMPBELL: Moderate drinkers hit by new booze penalties yet again


By Colin Campbell

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The minimum price of alcohol in Scotland is set to rise later this year.
The minimum price of alcohol in Scotland is set to rise later this year.

Not content with the minimum pricing penalty they've already imposed on booze, the holier-than-thou aspiring health gurus at Holyrood now intend to jack it up by another 30 per cent. This is despite minimal to non-existent evidence of any beneficial effect minimum pricing has had in curbing problem drinking, or causing chronic alcoholics to see the light and mend their ways.

The rise from 50p to 65p per unit will see the supermarket costs for moderate consumers of beer, wine and spirits soar. And for what purpose? Primarily, I suspect because it makes MSPs feel good about themselves in supposedly "doing the right thing".

This will make no difference to their ability to buy the finest malts in the flashy bars of Edinburgh with their bloated salaries and expenses.

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Neither will it make any difference to those who frequent the bars of Inverness, flashy or otherwise, where overpriced cocktails and other drinks will stay at the same level as they are now. In other words it will not even by one glass reduce the alcohol consumption of younger people there who, regrettably, are most at risk of developing future problems with drink.

The people it will hit are those of us who enjoy a quiet and moderate drink at home. I like low-alcohol lager, the kind that malt-loving politicians would dismiss as tasting like drain water, and that is going to rise steeply in price. That won't make me consume any less of it. It will just cost me more.

Until the 1980s there were virtually no warnings on the health risks and dangers of alcohol. Many people, in fact, kept a small quantity of brandy stored away in a cupboard even if they never normally touched the stuff. This was viewed as a medicinal tonic which might be administered if an adult was feeling light-headed or unwell. It was considered to have restorative properties, and in some cases it may even have worked.

And guidance on recommended weekly limits simply didn't exist.

Few would surely deny that a change to that uninformed free-for-all was a positive move. And now absolutely no one could reasonably claim to be unaware of the new health guidelines. But whether you roughly follow them or not, you're still going to be hit or hammered at the supermarket checkout.

And will serious problem drinkers be sobered by them? No, they'll just cut back, if necessary, on what they consider the non-essentials of life, like food. Has an interview ever been published or a case study ever been provided of a chronic alcoholic who said: "Thank goodness for minimum pricing. It certainly worked for me."

There is none of this in England. The SNP government, so eager to secure "freedom", is remarkably keen to try and control our lives in a manner which is the very opposite of freedom.

The latest 30 per cent increase figure was, I suspect, plucked out of the air. Maybe we should be grateful that they didn't decide to just double the minimum price. They could have done. There's nothing to stop them.

When power is used like this, arbitrarily and with little or nothing to back it up and provide evidence of its benefits, it leaves a very sour taste indeed.

Too many at Holyrood have got used to the arrogant pleasures of simply bossing people around. But step by step they are now going too far and alienating too many people.

And now a very large number of moderate and responsible people who enjoy a quiet drink at home will be among them.


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