Hike the price and halt alcohol carnage

Pic: John Devlin
Pic: John Devlin

On May 1, Scotland’s deeply ingrained relationship with alcohol will, hopefully, start to turn.

The introduction of a minimum price per unit finally becomes law after a decade of debate, and dissent.

Drink wrecks lives, fuels violence and leaves people in the most frightening and distressing of states.

And yet we still applaud someone who can hold their drink, and we celebrate the most brutal of hangovers as badges of honour.

That relationship has to change for the sake of this, and future, generations.

Whether minimum unit pricing is the solution remains to be seen, but, in the week that it was revealed that alcohol was a factor in 15,000 call outs to our ambulance service, it is an approach that has be tried.

The way we buy, and consume, alcohol has changed alarmingly over the past decade while politicians and industry experts have haggled over the proposal.

We’ve drifted away from pubs and clubs and gorged on supermarket deals where booze is cheaper than bottled water.

A minimum price per unit will force retailers to hike their charges up considerably on some brands,.

That may well mean they make more profit – a criticism of the proposal – and lead to different prices either side of the border, but it is at least a recognition that in Scotland we have a problem which has to be tackled.

The Scottish Government has yet to fully win hearts and minds on its plans for minimum unit pricing, but it deserves credit for at least trying something different.

Doing nothing is about as useful as that favourite trick of most politicians – commission a report, take six months to read its findings and chuck it on a shelf until everyone has forgotten about it.

If the new approach works as well as the smoking ban, it can be the starting point to finally tackling the love of booze that seems to flow through our DNA.

It won’t affect the drink we buy in bars, restaurants or clubs, but it will break the link between strong booze and cheap prices.

Some argue the proposed 50 pence per unit favoured by the Scottish Government is already out of date – Willie Rennie, leader of the the Lib Dems has called for 60p – but we have to start somewhere.

Give the project one year, assess the impact and report back promptly to allow a more rounded debate to be had.

We cannot continue to log 15,000 booze-related call outs to our 999 crews.

If you want to know the brutal impact drink plays in those calls, simply ask any paramedic or police officer – they mop up the mess and deal with the abuse every single day.

They understand, more than most politicians, the hold alcohol can have on people as well as the damage it can inflict on families and individual lives.

The legislation won’t change all of that overnight, but, it can be the first step towards a more grown-up relationship with alcohol.

If it has the same impact as the smoking ban then the ten-year wait will have been worth it.