02/03/2009

Plans To Tackle Alcohol Abuse Announced In Scotland

Plans to ban two-for-one alcohol promotions and cheap supermarket booze have been outlined by the Scottish government today, to help tackle alcohol misuse.

The strategy was launched by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill with minimum pricing and local flexibility to ban off-sales to under-21s among its key elements in tackling what health experts regard as Scotland's most pressing public health concern.

The Scottish National Party said radical steps must be taken to crack down on Scotland's alcohol abuse problems, which costs the country £2.25 billion.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Health Secretary, unveild the Government's plans, which follow a consultation on a package of radical proposals to crack down on drink abuse.

These include raising the purchasing age in off-sales from 18 to 21, banning two-for-one offers and some form of minimum pricing structure for alcohol.

Figures show that there are 28,000 victims of alcohol abuse every year in Scotland and an average of six people die from a related illness every day.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Plummeting prices and aggressive promotion have led to a surge in consumption, causing and adding to health problems ranging from liver and heart diseases to diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancers.

"We have listened to those who responded to the consultation and modified our proposals where appropriate. But we remain determined to press ahead with tough policies to tackle alcohol misuse."

However, it is thought MSPs are unlikely to back plans to raise the age of buying drink to 21.

The Tories have described the pricing plans as "horribly flawed" and warned against introducing knee-jerk legislation.

MSPs have already rejected the controversial proposal to increase the age for buying drink in supermarkets and off-licences from 18 to 21, voting by 72 to 47 against the suggestion.

Student campaigners are also opposed to the proposals.

Gurjit Singh, the president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said students had already organised a 10,000-signature petition against raising the age for off-sales purchases to 21.

"This is really ill thought-out and they don't have any evidence as to how its going to work," he said yesterday.

(JM/BMcC)

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