‘Half measure won’t do to tackle issue’

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Tackling Scotland’s love affair with the demon drink and the associated drain on the public purse is never going to be solved by one simple measure.

It will involve as much carrot as stick as we seek to bring about a societal change for the benefit of future generations.

But moves like allowing health board representation on licensing applications are an important step in the right direction.

We previously praised the brave decision of councillors to use their powers by refusing a supermarket licence application after hearing evidence from NHS Lothian about the link between the over-provision of alcohol and hospital admissions.

As we said at the time, 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. The decision was not against that particular supermarket, but one of principle.

That ruling was later overturned on appeal after the board admitted its policy could not stand up to scrutiny, and today we report today how three more city centre supermarkets and one in Portobello have gained licences despite similar representations from the health board.

Leaving aside the relative merits of the applications, it does expose a real flaw which must now be dealt with urgently.

If we are serious about going down the road of considering the health implications of granting new licences to sell alcohol then councillors must have a clear policy to work with and be able to justify their decisions.

They must know what they should and should not approve and crucially their decisions must hold-up and not be easily overturned.

The policy should be more sophisticated than simply setting a cap on the number of licences and take into account things like staff training and the demographic of the surrounding area.

Most importantly of all, however, this policy needs to be developed quickly, fairly and comprehensively. When it comes to tackling Scotland’s alcohol problem, a half-measure won’t do.

Long-term goals

They have been playing for longer than the majority of today’s top players have been alive.

We tell today how two five-a-side teams in Edinburgh have been competing against each other for a remarkable 32 years, with stalwarts like Colin Beggs, Will Craigie and Alex Davidson ever-present at the Jack Kane Centre every Sunday morning.

It’s an incredible achievement but it does beg the common question at every amateur kick-around – can anyone remember the score?