A LEADING charity has hit out at claims that a clampdown on alcohol sales in the Capital would stifle efforts to revitalise deprived communities.
Licensing chiefs are facing calls to adopt a tough policy which could lead to a near-ban on mainstream alcohol outlets such as pubs and off-licences across large parts of the Capital in a bid to improve health and tackle disorder in problem areas.
However, talks over the policy hit stalemate this week, with several members of the licensing committee expressing fears that adopting recommendations backed by the NHS and police would send out a message that Edinburgh was “closed for business” and put retailers off moving into areas in desperate need of investment and jobs.
Eric Milligan, convener of the licensing board, said he was particularly reluctant to class Leith, Dalry and Fountainbridge and Portobello as areas of over-provision.
However, Alcohol Focus Scotland today said that alcohol caused more harm in the type of communities that councillors had said they wanted to help.
Dr Evelyn Gillan, the charity’s chief executive, called on politicians “to provide deprived communities with a better route out of poverty then simply offering to sell them more alcohol”.
Dr Gillan, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said that Edinburgh already had the highest number of licensed premises in Scotland.
She added: “There is no evidence that allowing more will increase tourist numbers, or revitalise deprived communities. People living in Scotland’s most deprived areas are six times more likely to die an alcohol-related death than people living in the least deprived areas.
“The sale of alcohol is licensed because we know from experience that allowing alcohol to be sold anywhere and everywhere leads to alcohol health problems and damages communities.”
A report from Alcohol Focus Scotland used Edinburgh as a case study to explore how alcohol harms others and found it was a factor in half of all murders, 72 per cent of domestic abuse and 76 per cent of assaults. Around 7000 children in the city live with an adult with “problematic alcohol use”.
The city’s economy leader, Frank Ross, said in a private e-mail circulated to licensing board members that limiting licences to sell alcohol was “not the answer” to “significant issues regarding alcohol consumption”, would be detrimental to plans to create a European-style cafe culture in the city and could deter hotel operators from expansion, hampering tourism.
A further meeting to discuss the city’s statement of licensing policy will be held next week, following Monday’s stalemate.