Wednesday May 14 2008
Scotland is boldly taking on the drinks industry and retailers to tackle its health and social problems. Will the rest of Britain follow?
Sweeping powers to tackle binge drinking and alcohol abuse in Scotland will be tabled next year in a new legislative package that could set the tone for a similar clampdown south of the border.
Campaigners for tougher action throughout Britain believe the Scottish measures - such as setting a minimum price for alcohol to outlaw cheap liquor, and restricting sales in supermarkets to designated areas - will prompt Westminster to take stronger action. The moves follow Scotland's example in banning smoking in public places well before England and Wales.
The Scottish government's cabinet secretary for justice, Kenny MacAskill, says that while problems stemming from narcotics could not be minimised, alcohol - "a licensed drug" - was the major problem, with drink-related side-effects and illnesses creating labour shortages, threatening to overrun the health service, and already swamping Scotland's prison system. "Alcohol is the problem of our time," he says. "This is the major criminal justice, health and social issue in Scotland ... we have to take action. Scotland has a cultural problem. We 'dine out' on the hard-drinking Scottish image and we have to change that culture. We just allowed our high streets to be taken over."
. . . . . . .