The Glasgow University SRC has aligned itself with members of the alcohol and retail industry in questioning the Scottish Government’s proposed controls on the sale of alcohol.
President Gavin Lee made the comment in response to the SNP’s plans to implement minimum retail pricing on alcoholic drinks.
The plan, developed to help curb Scotland’s reputation for alcohol abuse, makes a number of recommendations on reducing alcohol consumption, through measures such as the restriction of off-license promotions, and a total ban on the sale of alcohol as a loss-leader.
Lee stated that although the SRC supported the idea of action on alcohol abuse, it did not agree with minimum pricing as method of curbing excessive drinking.
He said: “The SRC applauds the government for attempting to tackle the binge drinking problem in Scotland. However, there is no evidence that the rise in the price of alcohol prevents alcohol abuse: our mainland European counterparts do not have a problem with binge drinking, despite comparatively low prices.
Lee went on to call for further research into the other causes of abuse.
He said: “An alcohol abuse culture is maintained through a variety of different factors; the Government needs to investigate the root causes of the problem, not simply increase prices”.
These views follow criticism levelled by those involved in the production and retail of alcohol, who have expressed concern over proposals involving minimum pricing.
Scottish & Newcastle, producer of brands such as Strongbow and Fosters, stated their opposition to minimum pricing in a response to the Government’s discussion paper on Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.
They said: “Setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol is a blunt instrument which will have a disproportionate affect on responsible and law abiding drinkers.
“Those who abuse alcohol will find an alternative source, risking a rise in demand for cheap or even illicit alcohol.
“We do not believe this proposal will tackle harmful drinking patterns, nor do we believe it is the role of Government to set prices for consumers. On those grounds, we oppose this proposal.”
Retail giant TESCO has aired similar views, and like the SRC President, points to Europe as an example that pricing is not a key issue in the drive to reduce binge-drinking.
Executive Director for Corporate and Legal Affairs for the company, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, stated: “Binge drinking and other alcohol-related social problems are a serious concern to us all, but it is far too simplistic to apportion responsibility for this on price alone.”
“If low-cost alcohol were the only factor then countries such as France and Spain, where prices are much lower than in the UK, would have similar problems and countries like Finland, where alcohol is expensive and its availability restricted, would not.”