I thought of doing a blog on the media response to minimum pricing for alcohol, but since nothing much has changed in their approach since last October, I’ll just re-run this blog from 2011.
But a couple of points -
The ‘penalise the moderate drinker' argument is bollocks – I’m a moderate drinker, I know a lot of moderate drinkers, and none of them will be penalised. Dependent of their choice of tipple, it will either cost them nothing or very little. And if it did result in them – and me - cutting down to low moderate, it would be no bad thing.
The ‘the desperate ones will get it somehow, so price won’t make a difference’ is also bollocks. Addiction, i.e. alcoholism, is a problem for a minority, and as I know from my Glasgow childhood, the desperately poor alcoholic will drink anything – methylated spirits, aftershave, etc. But Scotland’s main problem with alcohol is uncontrolled, excessive social drinking as a lifestyle choice – and it is a choice, especially among the young. Low prices increased this form of drinking and higher prices will reduce this kind of drinking – the evidence is clear.
No one, least of all Nicola Sturgeon, has ever suggested that minimum pricing is a total solution: it is one approach among a complex set of measures, but one that will yield immediate and very tangible results.
I spent fourteen years in the alcohol industry at senior level and worked with them for well over a further decade or more in consulting and training. I know the sophistication and power of their PR and marketing departments, and despite a superficial gloss of “support for encouraging responsible drinking” and token financial support for the councils on alcoholism, etc. their top priorities are volume sales and profitability, and anything that impinges on either will be resisted.
Bluntly, the booze merchants will support any measure. especially the much touted ‘education to change drinking habits’, so long as there is no chance of it actually changing drinking habits and reducing sales of alcohol.
Minimum pricing will change behaviour, it will reduce consumption, it will reduce volume sales, the booze business knows it will – and they will fight it tooth and nail.
MORIDURA BLOG Sunday, 2 October 2011
THE BOOZE – and “a nice glass of rosé after work”
The Herald and The Scotsman are both panicking about the SNP Government’s measures to combat the twin – and related – Scottish curses of alcohol abuse and sectarianism. Show me a violent bigot and I’ll show you a drunk. They are caught between a rock and a hard place – they must pretend to condemn alcohol abuse and sectarianism, but are terrified that the SNP’s measures might actually succeed in addressing these these ancient evils, because both abuses operate against the Scottish people developing a real national consciousness and democratic will for freedom and independence.
The enthusiasm with which both papers last week seized upon a ‘spontaneous’ demonstration’ - complete with large and elaborately crafted anti-SNP banners - by a small group of old firm ‘fans’ who wanted to protect their right to bellow out sectarian chants - in the name of freedom of expression and sport, God help us – was contemptible.
And today, we have The New Sunday Herald, with an ambivalent front page – Canning the drinks ban – which develops into a thinly-disguised attack on the SNP’s legislative measures to combat cheap booze promotions by supermarkets. Jackie Baillie, Labour, that stout defender of the rights of of Scottish people to have WMDs on their doorsteps and to be protected from any measures that might really help them to stop destroying themselves with cheap hooch, appears rapidly on the scene, accompanied by her sister-in-arms in these matters, Mary Scanlon, Tory, both anxious to shift the attack on alcohol abuse from minimum pricing – which will work - back to the booze barons preferred measures, empty exhortations to behave better (called ‘changing behaviour’) – which manifestly has never worked, and never will work.
Both these women are their party’s Spokeswoman for Health, rather as Tony Blair is Peace Envoy for the Middle East.
The Sunday Herald also wandered into the streets with a camera and picked entirely at random six young Scots who are against the legislation, who all ‘like a nice glass of rosé after work’, or its equivalent, and feel they are being unfairly penalised by the legislation.
They even managed to find a nurse who seemed to be against the legislation, although her views are rather confusing – if reported accurately – since her opening remark calls for ‘an overall ban on low booze prices’, but she feels that ‘it’s ridiculous and might extenuate (sic) other problems in the NHS …” and concludes with The Scotsman’s, The Herald’s, the Tory and Labour spokeswomen for Health’s and the booze business and supermarkets’ favourite solution – ‘dealing with the root cause, by educating people from school level.’
The only thing missing from the nightmare scenario was crazed latte drinkers, driven mad by caffeine.
The Sunday Herald, with no sense of irony, called this ‘sample’ of public opinion VOX POP. Well, I suppose a ‘nice glass of rosé ‘ is as close to pop as you’ll get from a supermarket’s alcohol shelves.
This randomly selected group must be congratulated for standing alone against the consensus of the BMA, the nursing profession, the police, health workers, alcohol and harm reduction workers, etc. who supported minimum pricing and control of price as a desirable and significant move to combat alcohol abuse.
I will find it hard to sleep tonight, thinking of the sad plight of of those unable to afford a nice glass of rosé after work because of this legislation, not to mention those other oppressed Old Firm consumers of rosé at Ibrox or Celtic Park, no longer able to brandish a wee bottle of Mateus on the terracing or bellow out sectarian songs as they wave the flags of nations other than Scotland.
And I will spare a tear for the directors and senior managers of Tesco, crouching round an oil lamp, down to their last few million pounds, as they weep inconsolably over the 0.3% impact on their profits, and desperately try to think up new ways to circumvent the law and democratic government.