Comment: ‘We’ve been in denial too long’

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The first stage of addressing any problem is to admit that it exists. When it comes to drinking and Scotland, it is hard to deny.

The evidence is around us, whether in the grim health board statistics or simply on the streets on a Saturday night.

Edinburgh councillors know the problem is there and have already tried and failed to tackle it by blocking applications for new alcohol licences in areas of over provision.

A policy which can be simply overturned on appeal is no policy at all and so it seems sensible that there are now moves to toughen up the licensing rules.

We have said before that making alcohol available on every street corner sends out a message that as a society we think it’s normal to buy it and consume it regularly.

Experts tells us that in areas awash with alcohol retailers, evidence shows that people drink more.

Restricting the supply by banning new outlets in areas already awash with licensed premises may have a negligible impact on the statistics by itself, but it would be a clear signal that Edinburgh is committed to tackling Scotland’s love affair with the demon drink.

This is not a war on responsible drinkers who pick up the odd bottle of wine – there will after all still be many outlets available.

And this is not against any particular retailer as the same rules should apply to both the supermarket giants and the local corner shop.

But we cannot ignore a problem which costs Edinburgh more than £220 million every year.

Edinburgh councillors have a real opportunity here to take an important and brave step towards reversing a depressing trend.

Some councillors remain to be convinced. Provided the policy is clear and fair, meaning decisions can be justified, and it goes hand-in-hand with other measures, then it has to be worth a try. We have been in denial too long.