The evidence that SNP’s mininum alcohol price has failed – Brian Monteith

The Scottish Government’s policy of minimum alcohol pricing has failed, with Scots actually buying more booze, writes Brian Monteith.
Scots have bought 1.8 million litres more booze since minimum pricing (Picture: John Devlin)Scots have bought 1.8 million litres more booze since minimum pricing (Picture: John Devlin)
Scots have bought 1.8 million litres more booze since minimum pricing (Picture: John Devlin)

It was bound to happen. They were warned, but they would not listen. Scotland’s experiment with minimum pricing of alcohol is not working.

Scotland would be the “first in the world”. Scotland would show everyone else how to cut back alcohol consumption. Everyone else would be copying us. “Whae’s like us!”

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Wrapping up a bad policy in nationalism is a tell-tale-sign the logic or rational case justifying a new law is weak. The SNP said they were right because they had behavioural modelling that told them so. Use the wrong assumptions and you get the wrong answers.

Now new sales figures show that Scots actually bought more booze from the offy – some 1.8 million litres more – over the period since minimum pricing of alcohol was brought in. It comes as no surprise to me. Treat adults like children and guess what, they behave like children.

It was blindingly obvious for anyone who lives in the real world and does not rely on a publicly funded salary and pension that gives them a vested interest in promoting such dangerous nonsense that this prohibition-by-stealth would not work.

The intervention was not necessary, it was a disproportionate response and it was targeted at the wrong people.

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It was not necessary because alcohol consumption in Scotland has been falling – not that the anti-alcohol quangos and government sock-puppet campaigns would ever admit this. I’ve reviewed the statistics and it’s a fact we Scots were just not drinking as much booze as before. The trend was in decline. Introducing a law that put the price of alcohol up to discourage drinking the stuff was not actually needed.

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It was disproportionate because it punished everyone, be they the person who keeps a bottle of Pinot Grigio in the fridge for the occasional glass or sinks a bottle of cheap vodka a day. The occasional drinker should not be punished because of the boozer who needs help.

It was targeted at the wrong people because it did not take account of people’s drinking patterns or that alcoholics are resistant to price hikes – they simply trade down to poorer quality booze until they are drinking paint thinners.

It was always a stupid idea when the effect of minimum pricing of alcohol did not put up the price of Buckfast fortified wine – one of the favoured drinks of behind-the-bike-shed teenagers out on a binge – but increased the price of ordinary Scotch or gin. It was always daft when it lined the pockets of the retailers (who had to put their prices up) instead of raising taxes that could be spent on helping alcoholics find the cure.

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A country’s drinking habits are essentially cultural – our lifestyles and attitudes are born out of the harshness of the environment, be it freezing cold, lashing winds and sleet or arid plains and sun-baked olive groves.

Some countries drink mainly spirits, some wines, some beers. Some drink with food, some without. Some drink to enjoy the flavour – some to get drunk. Some countries are more abstemious than others and all countries can change their culture over time.

Instead of trying to change Scotland’s culture, instead of seeking to educate people about the pitfalls of drinking to excess the Government and its agencies sends out mixed messages. You will see Government ministers applauding the whisky distillers and the craft brewers for their exports and job creation – yet funding organisations that believe drinking is bad for you, period.

Puritans travel in disguise, afraid to say what they really think – that alcohol should be priced and restricted to the point where it is eventually driven underground. They will bring in restrictions like minimum pricing, and then when it has failed they will say the minimum price has to go up to be effective. Indeed some are saying it already.

The prohibitionists are drunk on power – it’s time to dry them out.