Alcohol Bill fails to raise spirits

By Euan Black

Edinburgh’s local business owners and residents gave the Scottish Government’s Alcohol Bill a lukewarm reception today.

The bill will outlaw volume discounting – offers such as two crates of beer for £14 – and make a ‘Challenge 25′ ID policy compulsory, and has paved the way for a possible Social Responsibility Fee which will make on and off licenses pay a sum towards policing and health costs relating to alcohol abuse.

However, the SNP’s key policy of minimum pricing of alcohol was rejected by the majority of MSPs, with the votes going 76 to 49.

David Simpson, 32, assistant manager of the Golden Rule pub near Fountainpark, was unhappy with the majority of the measures introduced by the bill, especially the Social Responsibility Fee. He said: “The point of a license is that you are licensed to sell alcohol responsibly, so having a license should imply that you are socially responsible, so I think this fee is pretty pointless.

“I think it will be harder for independent pubs, whose margins are being squeezed more and more. The massive chains like Wetherspoons will be able to absorb these costs. Inevitably, in independents prices will have to go up yet again to absorb the costs of a fee. Unfortunately, and I hope it doesn’t happen, more pubs may close and more people may lose their jobs.”

Mr Simpson supported the minimum pricing of alcohol to 45p a unit, believing that was the only policy that would have tackled Scotland’s perceived alcohol problem.

He said: “Minimum pricing is the only thing that would have helped. It wouldn’t affect the price of a pint, or of a nice £15 bottle of wine that I sometimes want to enjoy. What it would change is the price of stuff like cheap cider.

“I was in the local shop the other day and I saw someone buy four and a half litres of cider for £3. That proves to me that minimum pricing is socially responsible, and that the rest of these measures are just penalising the on-trade.”

Shoppers’ views at Edinburgh off-licenses were mixed. Michael Webber, a 24 year-old Edinburgh student, said he was “all in favour of a Challenge 25 ID scheme”. He added: “If people are offended by being asked for ID, who cares?”

Gail Stevens, 45, a part-time receptionist, agreed with Mr Simpson on minimum pricing. She said: “Minimum pricing should have been voted through – there is a problem with drink in Scotland.”

Callum Black, 20, a bar worker in St Andrews, also took issue with the Social Responisibility Fee. He said: “The fee is a big problem. How will they decide how much to charge? Smaller pubs struggle as it is.”

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