Tea in the Park for music festival revellers?

by David Walsh

Festival goers in Scotland are to foot the bill for alcohol-fuelled disturbances at musical festivals under the proposed Alcohol Bill voted on at Holyrood today.

One of the clauses of the bill will see the introduction of a “clear-up tax” spike on temporary licence holders which will mean that festivals such as T in the Park in Fife will become subject to the new law.

MSPs passed the revised bill outlining measures to redress the estimated £3bn costs in health care in Scotland due to alcohol-related conditions.

Festival revellers will be hit by tax spike.
Festival revellers at T in the Park will be hit by tax spike.

The tax, called a social responsibility levy, has been agreed upon and will see the proceeds of alcohol sales contribute to the costs of policing and health care incurred by drink-related activities in the wider community.

Key measures of the bill have been passed but the flagship policy on minimum pricing has been definitively rejected by MSPs in a 76-49 final vote against the policy. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives all voted against the SNP policy in a move described by the Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon as crude party politics.

The minister had urged MSPs to agree to a renewed attempt to introduce the minimum pricing of alcohol after it was defeated by the Scottish Parliament back in September.

In a recent interview with the BBC, she said: “There is vast and growing support outside parliament for minimum pricing and that’s why, even at this late stage, I call on the opposition parties to put party politics aside and vote for something that is in the interests of improving public health.”

The 45p per unit minimum proposed by the SNP government back in September was part of the already revised legislation package. It was estimated that its introduction would see a reduction of 50 fewer deaths a year and hospital emissions by 1200 a year.

The vote on the bill comes in a week where Scotland has seen it’s alcohol exports to China strengthened in a new deal between the two countries. Only whisky produced in Scotland will be marketed as Scotch to Chinese consumers, Asia’s second largest food and drink market. The Scotsman has reported that shipments of Scotch to China currently generate £80m in revenue a year.