Comment: Time to wake up and smell the coffee

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Edinburgh’s licensing leader Eric Milligan is not a man known for mincing his words.

And his message today could not be clearer – as far as he is concerned there is no direct link between the number of outlets
allowed to sell alcohol and drink-related problems in Edinburgh’s communities.

The police view is also pretty clear in objecting to new alcohol licences. Scotland’s battle with the booze is not just a drain on our health services, it leads to social problems and, yes, crime.

In a way, Councillor Milligan is right. Statistics seem to bear out that antisocial behaviour reports are falling while the opportunity to buy alcohol is widening. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Antisocial behaviour reports may well be falling in Edinburgh but then you don’t switch off the traffic lights because no-one’s had an accident.

What about other crimes, perhaps not under the antisocial
behaviour umbrella?

There have been numerous studies which highlight the link between the availability of alcohol and a rise in violent crime in particular.

This is not about targeting those of us who want to have a glass of wine or a beer at the weekend, after all there are already more than enough retailers to choose from. Indeed, restricting the supply of alcohol in areas already awash with licensed premises may in itself have a negligible impact.

But this will send a clear message that Edinburgh is committed to dealing with its alcohol problem, one which costs more than £221 million every year.

It’s not all about the statistics, it’s about a change in attitude in a country which, when it comes to drinking, desperately needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Cllr Milligan is clearly not convinced.

We hope the debate will continue and maybe his opinion – along with those of his colleagues on the licensing board – will change for the better.