Tag Archives: alcohol

UK Supreme Court approves alcohol minimum pricing

Today the UK Supreme Court has approved Scotland’s Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Act, ruling against The Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) final chance of appeal.


Five years after the  bill was backed by MSP’s at Holyrood, the new legislation is set to enforce a 50p minimum price per unit on alcohol.

Continue reading UK Supreme Court approves alcohol minimum pricing

Scottish drinks industry backs drink-drive limit proposals

By Lauren Beehan

The Scottish drinks industry has welcomed the reduction in the drink-driving limit, which will be voted on by the Scottish Parliament today.

Under the new laws, the maximum blood alcohol level for drivers will be reduced from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml, meaning that a single pint of beer could put them over the limit from December 5th.

Representatives from the drinks industry have encouraged customers to be aware of the new limit and to make their plans accordingly.

Neil Williams of the British Beer & Pub Association said: “It is vital that everyone in Scotland knows about the change, as the pub is at the heart of all our Christmas celebrations. Enjoy the pub during the holiday season, but be prepared, such as having a designated driver, so you can get in the party spirit knowing you can have a safe journey home.”

Industry think-tank, the Portman Group, also supports the changes, saying that that drink producers have a role to play in the campaign against drink-driving.

A spokesperson from the group said that producers will focus now on “running responsible drink driving campaigns and education programmes to encourage people to nominate a designated driver and to never drink and drive.”

The Scottish government has launched an awareness campaign to inform drivers of both the change to the limit and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Don’t Risk It campaign includes advertisements on television, radio and online videos, as well as interactive social media with games showing the influence of alcohol on reaction speeds.

Advertisements will also be shown in northern England, where the limit remains at 80mg per 100ml, to ensure that drivers who cross the border are aware of the different laws.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who proposed the change, said: “With the approval of Parliament, the new drink drive limit will come into force on December 5, making our roads safer and saving lives.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone is informed about the new lower level.

“A persistent minority of people are still getting behind the wheel after drinking – that is unacceptable, it is putting lives at risk and it must stop. Our advice is simple, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all. Alcohol at any level impairs driving.

“This new law will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe and hopefully reduce drink drive arrests and prosecutions, as we have already seen in the Republic of Ireland, where drivers adjusted their behaviour to take account of the lower limit.”

A similar reduction was implemented in the Republic of Ireland in 2011, where drink-driving convictions fell by 3,000 in the space of two years.

Alcohol is a factor in 1 in 10 fatal road accidents in Scotland, with drink-driving causing over 400 accidents each year.

There were 4,730 people convicted of drink-driving in Scotland between March 2012 and March 2013, the last full year for which statistics are available.

Michael McDonnell, Director of Road Safety Scotland, said: “It’s almost 50 years since the current limit was introduced and that we still lose an average of 20 lives a year is a disgrace.

“Evidence from across the world demonstrates that the best results in tackling drink-driving are achieved by lowering the limit, or increasing enforcement, or both. We know, too, that a combination of high-profile enforcement, coupled with a heavyweight media campaign is the most efficient use of resources, and we are working closely with the Police Scotland and other partners to ensure that people know about the change to the limit and have no excuse.

“It’s not about catching more drink-drivers, but about preventing people from doing it in the first place. Ultimately, most of us have too much to lose, so it’s just not worth the risk.”

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, Head of Roads Policing for Police Scotland warned that people should not drink at all if they intend to get behind the wheel.

He said: “An average of 20 die on Scotland’s roads each year and last year a further 90 were seriously injured and 340 slightly injured as a result of drink driving related collisions.

“The new lower limit will reduce those numbers and the evidence from across Europe where the lower limit applies suggests we will see reductions in drink driving and blood alcohol counts.

“However even at the new limit you are three times more likely to die in a crash than if you had taken no alcohol. It is clear, when it comes to drinking and driving, that the simple ‘the best advice is none’ message is the right one.

“On the lead up to 5 December, police patrols will positively engage with as many road users as possible to provide real-time education to those who may be putting themselves and others at risk, influence behaviour in the future and prevent collisions on Scotland’s roads.”




Rape Campaign to Raise Awareness Among Students Over Festive Period

Universities are working in conjunction with Lothian and Borders Police to raise awareness around the increase of rapes taking place over the festive period. The campaign sees students as their “target market”, but some students are questioning why this hasn’t been an on-going campaign.

Universities work with police.

‘We Can Stop It’ aims to increase awareness about the Sexual Offence Act Scotland 2009, which defined several new offences relating to sex without consent.

Changes in the legislation included the acknowledgment that someone who is incapable through drink or drugs is considered unable to consent; the ability to consent to sex can be withdrawn at any time and male rape being legally classified as such for the very first time.

The emphasis of the campaign will be on 18-27 year olds and will focus primarily on men, hoping to provoke a change in values when it comes to rape so that men’s role in preventing rape can be brought to the forefront of peoples’ attention.

Chief Superintendent Malcom Graham, Divisional Commander for the City of Edinburgh said: “With the festive holidays fast approaching, we know that there will be significantly more young people out in bars and clubs.

“I hope that by working with educational establishments and receiving their support for the campaign we can reach our target market effectively and educate them about the key areas of change in the legislation.

“Our officers will also be in and around a number of campuses in the coming weeks speaking to students about the campaign and I would encourage anyone who is interested in becoming involved to speak to them.”

Lesley Johnstone, Chair of the Edinburgh Violence Against Women Partnership, is an advocate of the campaign and said: “Sexual abuse can have a devastating impact upon victims and their wider families, and we strongly support this initiative and the activity the police are doing at Edinburgh’s Universities.”

Students and staff at Napier University responded positively to the campaign, recognising the gravity of the issues at hand. However, some people raised concerns about why the campaign was only being run over the festive period.  Napier Student President Tom Zanelli echoed these concerns: “Rape is a disgraceful act and needs stamping out, I do agree that rape and what actually is rape is still very much unknown, so hopefully this campaign can help raise awareness and also stamp it out.

“To be honest students will always drink and I’m not convinced they will drink any more or less over the festive period, the campaign should on-going throughout the year and always targeted at students.”

Former student Robert Piper said: “A lot of them are too busy studying or going home for Christmas and everything, but yes I think it’s a good thing. They should realise that whenever they go out and have a few drinks, being social, they might let their guard down. They should still be aware of what’s going on around them and everything else that’s going on, not just for themselves but for other people as well.”

Computer Security and Forensics student Jake Gregg said: “Most of the students are going home at Christmas, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do this during term time when there’s more students here. Some students understand the issues, but others maybe need their awareness raised.”

Financial Advisor Zara Lochrie: “I think if there’s enough promotion and awareness is raised enough then I don’t think this campaign will be overlooked, I think it’s something that’s quite prominent just now. If students are aware of it and if there’s enough awareness around the university then it will definitely take off I’d say.

“I’d say students would be the perfect target audience, especially over Christmas with all the Christmas parties and things like that, but student and staff alike over the Christmas period where everyone’s drinking a little bit more. I think it’s a good time to get in there when it’s relevant to them.”

Placements Administrator Lindsay Morgan: “I guess this is a good time for the campaign, because it’s the time when everyone’s drinking and partying. I wasn’t aware of that legislation change so I dare say there are a lot of students out there who aren’t aware of the change either.

“A lot of students will have gone home already, but then there’s local students too, and students still keep in touch with all the things going on at university so it may not be too late.”

“Eureka! Wee’ve got it!” Street urinals are the answer

Outdoor City Urinals. Picture courtesy of "This Amsterdam" website

By Claudie Qumsieh

In London at weekends dark figures connected to the sewers rise out of the pavements: urinals. Edinburgh has unveiled plans for similar, if not as cinematic, urinals to address the problem of drunkards using the streets as make-shift toilets.

The proposal was outlined in a report into how the night-time economy of Edinburgh affects local residents’ quality of life. Public urination most affects the Grassmarket and Cowgate  areas according to Edinburgh City Council. “Urinating in the street accounts for a third of all fixed penalty notices for antisocial behaviour and a large amount of residents’ complaints.” a spokeswoman for the Council said.

The report was a response to give balance to a previous report on the benefits Edinburgh’s night-life brings to the economy. City leader Jenny Dawe said: “Obviously there are some people, particularly in the Grassmarket for example, where they see a different side to it, so this is addressing the impact that it has on residents and their quality of life. It shows that quite a lot is already being done to try to minimize the impact and that will continue being the case, because clearly we don’t want to have disgruntled residents just because something’s helping Edinburgh’s economy.”

According to suppliers Loo-hire UK “From delivery, to waste management, to collection – Loo-Hire U.K. take care of everything. This saves the local authority time and money in street cleaning services. The Four Bay Male Urinal portable toilet provides a public convenience and creates a more pleasant environment for everyone”.  Each unit holds 450 litres and is 200cm tall. They need no mains connection or set-up, and Loo-Hire U.K remove the waste.

Similar initiatives elsewhere in the UK have proved to be a success. Since Bath & North Somerset Council installed 2 portable toilets at a taxi rank in October 2009, the device has collected on average 30 litres of urine a night and 14000 people have used them. Bath Councillor Vic Pritchard said: “It is noticeable that fewer people are using street corners and shop doorways to urinate, meaning the police can deal with other anti-social behaviour incidents and council street cleaners can concentrate on grime hot-spots elsewhere”

Police street patrols will also be increased in Edinburgh to reduce public disorder between 2.30 and 3.30am.

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.”

National news in brief

Expenses MPs to be tried

Three ex-Labour MPs involved in the expenses scandal, including Jim Devine of Livingston, have lost their final legal challenge to facing criminal trials. They had claimed they should not be tried as they were protected by Parliamentary privilege. Nigel Pleming QC, who represented Jim Devine, said had told the Supreme Court it was not “an attempt to take them above or outside the law”.

Cameron demands prosecution for violent students

David Cameron has called for the violent student protesters who attacked Conservative headquarters on Monday to be prosecuted with “the full force of the law”, while NUS Scotland President Liam Burns warned that the issues behind the protest must not be forgotten.

Child cancer death rates fall 60%

Cancer kills 60% less children than in the late 1960s, according to research from Cancer Research UK. Nearly eight out of every ten children now survive past the five-year mark with cancer, compared to less than three out of ten in 1966-70.

Harry Potter premieres in London

The red carpet premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One took place at London’s Leicester Square last night. The film adapts the first half of the final Harry Potter book, with the final part to be released in the summer of 2011.

Facebook sobriety test released

BNP Paribas Masters
Andy Murray has reaching the quarters in Paris

The Queen can heave a sigh of relief this week as, after the creation of the British Monarchy Facebook account, The Social Media Sobriety Test was launched to help users avoid posting drunk messages. The tool allows people to block themselves from using sites like Facebook if they fail a series of coordination tests.

Murray reaches French quarter-finals

Andy Murray progressed to the quarter finals of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris last night. Murray struggled through the early stages of the match, and was given a warning for throwing a ball in anger at one point, before defeating Marin Cilic 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 6-3.

Alcohol Bill set to be passed in Scotland

by Leighton Craig

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon

MSP’s are expected to pass Stage 3 of the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill today which will introduce key measures to address the issue of alcohol consumption in Scotland.

The Bill will prevent retailers from having drinks promotions and raise the age verification policy from 21 to 25.

However, key element’s missing from the legislation is the governments plans to allow local licensing boards to raise the age at which alcohol can be purchased from 18 to 21 along with the controversial minimum pricing for alcohol.

Opposition parties are thought to be opposed to minimum pricing as it could be illegal under European competition law.

It was stricken from the Bill in September and is not expected to be included in the final draft.

The SNP are thought to be frustrated by this as it was a key part in their proposals to tackle Scotland’s renowned alcohol troubles.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who is a key supporter of minimum pricing said:

“It’s no coincidence that, as alcohol has become more affordable, consumption has increased and, along with it, the levels of alcohol-fuelled harm and violence.

It’s got to stop. Scotland cannot afford – in either economic or human terms – to dismiss one of the most effective interventions we can put in place.

That’s why I believe that minimum pricing is a policy whose time has come. There’s strong and growing support for minimum pricing – from experts at home and abroad as well as, increasingly, the general public.

Indeed, I think it’s now universally acknowledged that pricing must be addressed.”

Another part of the Bill which will not be included is the prohibition of the sale of alcoholic drinks containing over 15o milligrams of alcohol per litre.

This section was proposed in order to prevent the sale of the much maligned Buckfast Tonic Wine which has been under much scrutiny due to it’s links with violence.

It remains to be seen the effects such a diluted version of the bill will have on Scotland’s drinking culture.

Edinburgh pubs branded ‘irresponsible’ for alcohol promotions.

By James Davies

A number of pubs across Edinburgh have been investigated by Lothian and Borders Police for encouraging ‘irresponsible’ drinking through cheap promotions and discount cards.

 The City’s Licensing Standards Officers are currently investigating around 65 premises in connection with breaching the Licensing Scotland Act (2005) by offering price discounts and alcohol promotions to specific social groups – in particular – students.

Many pubs are now not allowed to give drink promotions

 Pubs and restaurants have been warned by Police that these types of promotions are now unlawful after recent changes to the Licensing Scotland Act (2005) and discount cards and loyalty cards are now not allowed.  The Act states that “no promotion can be given that encourages irresponsible drinking”.

 Patrick Browne, Chief Executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub association said: “Police Officers don’t yet have any formal approval from the Licensing Board and we at The Scottish Pub and Beer association believe that Licensing Officers have made a big mistake.

 “The Mitchells and Butler chain appealed one of the warnings their Dundee branch received two weeks ago, and are waiting on a Sheriffs decision. This will be Case Law and it would be premature if the Edinburgh LSO’s did anything before the Dundee decision”.

 As the promotion cards and discount loyalty cards are mainly aimed at students, I spoke to a fourth year University student to see what his views on the situation are. He said: “Drink promotions are great for students, who have to do everything on a budget.

 “Things like loyalty cards are great because they keep us students able to socialise and go out more. I imagine the pubs involved will feel a pinch in their profits if these types of promotions were made illegal. It’s ridiculous to ban these types of promotions for the majority, when it’s the minority that are actually abusing it.”

 Decisions will be made about those pubs involved in the Edinburgh after the Mitchells and Butler case in Dundee has been settled, and depending on what the Sheriffs verdict is, pubs across the Capital may have to change their ways.

For more information on current Licensing Laws visit www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2005/16/contents

New report suggestions alcohol more deadly than heroin

An Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs report, co-authored by the former drugs adviser David Nutt, has been published today via the leading medical journal The Lancet.

The reports aim to supply a more realistic classification list and was made by grading 20 drug types, both legal and illegal, out of 100 points according to the recorded damage they cause to individual users (through hospital admittance for overdoses and rehabilitation admittance) as well as society as a whole through instances such as drug-related assaults.

The report’s findings show that “heroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals (part scores 34, 37, and 32, respectively), whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others (46, 21, and 17, respectively). Overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) in second and third places.” The report is in a similar vain of criticism to the 2009 reports that lead to Nutt’s dismissal and is sure to spark controversy as the committee consists of several resigned Labour drugs advisers.

While response to the report is not yet fully formed, initial responses seem mixed as many members of the public are in favour of reassessing drug classification; however, many feel it is irresponsible to imply drugs such as heroin are less of a hazard when binge drinking is a growing problem in society. One concerned citizen, Harvey Osborne, commented: ‘If teenagers are widely experimenting with alcohol, it seems irresponsible to suggest they can already handle the most dangerous drugs’.

Charity Accused of Being ‘Eugenical’

Drug users can be paid to be sterilised

By Ryan C. Gavan

The current campaign by U.S. charity Project Prevention to persuade drug and alcohol addicts to be sterilised in return for a payment of £200 has been condemned by addiction support groups.

David Liddel, Director of the Scottish Drug Forum, believes “the tactics and underlying agenda of this organisation smack of the discredited eugenics movements of the early 20th century.” He continued “all women, irrespective of whether they are drug addicts or not, should be offered family planning advice.”

Project Prevention was started in the United States by Barbara Harris, a child welfare campaigner .The charity’s remit is to prevent children from being born with birth defects as a result of drug dependent pregnancies. Their website states “the main objective is public awareness to the problem of addicts exposing their unborn child to drugs during pregnancy.”

The charity argues that “the average number of children per addict is 3.” This, they feel, can be easily prevented through cash incentives for long-term birth control or total sterilisation.

The number of children born to drug addicts is on the rise in the UK. A survey carried out by the University of Aberdeen shows it has increased 30% since 1998.  Last week the first UK addict took up the charity’s offer. The addict, from Leicester, was paid after having a vasectomy.

This has been likened to the programme run by Dundee Council to convince smokers to quit by paying them £50 a month.

Veni, vidi, whisky

by Sandra Juncu

A Scot, an Asian, a Native – American and an Eskimo walk into a bar, they drink the same amount of alcohol. Who will get more drunk?

The adult version of a candy store

What sounds like a funny riddle is actually an important question that US scientists answered this Tuesday: it’s in the genes. University of North Carolina researchers at the Chapel Hill School of Medicine found a new gene, CYP2E1, which instructs the body to produce an enzyme that breaks down alcohol.  1 in 5 people will tolerate alcohol less than others, leading them to be more sensitive to substance abuse or alcoholism.

Study author Professor Kirk Wilhelmsen commented on the results: “It turns out that a specific version of CYP2E1 makes people more sensitive to alcohol.” He also added that even if some questions were answered, and an important contribution to understanding the body’s response to alcohol has been made, the battle against alcoholism is still a long way from finished: “But alcoholism is a very complex disease and there are lots of complicated reasons why people drink. This may be just one of the reasons.”

The Day After Stats

Scotland ranks 8th in the world and in top place in the EU for alcohol consumption per head of population, according to Alcohol Focus Scotland and EU public health statistics. This costs the tax payers an estimate of 3,5 billions per year. As one in every 20 deaths and 1 in 10 accident & emergency admissions is attributed to alcohol, the numbers are painting a sinister picture and raising a serious alarm sign about the fact that the real bad effects of alcohol are a lot more painful than a bad hangover.

Born Different

Alcohol tolerance is determined by our genes and our genes are determined by our ethnic background, this means that alcohol sensitivity varies according to race. As an earlier study showed, European and North Americans have a higher threshold for alcohol compared to Asians, Eskimos and Native Americans. So in the case of all of them meeting in a pub, it’s the Scots who will have to take the others home.

‘Scottish Government Fails to Convince in Raising Drinking Age’

Young people are being targeted in this legislation

By Ryan C. Gavan

The Scottish Government’s measures to give licensing boards the ability to raise the age of buying alcohol to combat Scotland’s binge drinking epidemic has failed. After a dramatic deliberation in a meeting of the Health and Sport  committee at Holyrood, the plan has been voted down 3-5 against in the most recent review of the Alcohol Bill after strong opposition.

The Bill, introduced by Nicola Sturgeon MSP, says, “There are clear arguments in support of raising the off-sales age,where appropriate, as part of a range of local measures to address local problems. Our proposal would have made it easier for Licensing Boards to apply a minimum age of 21 to off-sales but would not have meant that they had to do so.”

The measures stood against strong opposition from other parties. Lib Dem Health spokesman Ross Finnie MSP stated that “we could have been in the ridiculous situation where a 19-year-old army officer could not buy a bottle of wine to celebrate returning from the front line.” This shows the problems facing such legislation.

This has also been  criticised by youth groups such as the National Union for Students. In a statement put to the committee the organisation said “we do not agree that the evidence has shown that an alcohol purchase age of 21 for off-sales would reduce anti-social behaviour in our communities.”

Sturgeon comments that there is compelling evidence to raise the age of drink purchasing in off licenses saying ” We’ve considered international evidence which found that increasing the legal drinking age can have substantial effects on youth drinking and alcohol-related harm.”

The proposed amendment failed to convince the rest of the committee. Finnie now believes it is time to focus on more workable parts of the legislation. “We must now focus on the health related aspects of the Bill” continuing that it is more important to focus on “banning irresponsible promotions”.  

Other measures also failed such as the controversial proposal of minimum drink pricing. The SNP are focusing on anti-social behaviour with the upcoming Holyrood election on the horizon. They have suffered a number of recent blows including Alex Salmond’s decision not to hold a referendum on independence but rather seek greater devolution powers.

Pubs Get Rid of the Glass, a Senior Violence Researcher Pleads

The pint glass could soon be replaced by a plastic alternative.

Has the time come to ban the bottle? Alcohol related attacks involving glass in the UK are currently costing taxpayers £100m a year in reactionary services. A senior violence researcher is now urging the abolition of glass in pubs and clubs, however, the idea may not be very popular with licensees.

Dr. Alasdair Forsyth, of Glasgow Caledonian University and Glasgow Centre for the Study of Violence, is calling on alcohol retailers to consider exchanging glass drinks containers for a safer plastic option, in line with many pubs and clubs existing practices.

He points out that soft drinks are already sold in plastic bottles, milk in cartons, but that alcohol, which is the main driving force behind these attacks, is still purchased in a container which can easily double as a potentially lethal weapon.

An alternative polycarbonate glass was introduced in pubs across the city of Hull two years ago, which resulted in an estimated saving of  around £7m for the NHS alone.

Mark Hastings of the Beer and Pub association, in an interview with Sky News, said that plans to ban glass in all licensed premises was disproportionate and that it should not be enforced all of the time:

“Glasses are only one of the things that people could pick up and use as a weapon should they choose to do it. There are chairs, tables, knives and forks. Where do we stop with this effort to drive out anything that could cause harm to people?”

The research carried out by Dr. Forsyth showed that resistance to using plastic containers could also come from the public. His study showed that resistance to plastic containers was much lower in younger people than those aged 40 plus, as they quite often believe that glass keeps the drink cooler.

Blake Golding, a doorman in Milton Keynes, was attacked with a bottle resulting in 50 stitches and knows only too well the damage a glass container can do when  in the hands of the wrong person. His mother is now campaigning to ban glass from pubs and clubs after witnessing first hand the traumatic affect the attack has had on her sons life.

Dr. Forsyth will tell the The World Safety Conference today that evidence suggests that after knives, glass and bottles are the most commonly used weapon.

Labour rejects minimum alcohol bill

By Joanna Park & Natalie Deacon

A Labour MSP has condemned the SNP minimum alcohol pricing bill as ‘unworkable.’

Labour MSP John Park said: “The proposal brought to us by the SNP was unworkable and unfortunately while labour did suggest the idea of a commission, this was rejected by the SNP, so unfortunately we are in the position we are today.

“We intend to work closely with the SNP combat Scotland’s binge drinking culture. ”

The SNP set out proposals yesterday, backed by health campaigners, police and publicans, claiming the measure would saves lives. 

The bill, which the Tories and Lib Dems have previously rejected, aims to tackle the binge drinking culture in Scotland.

The plan proposes to introduce a minimum price of 40p per 10 millilitre unit of alcohol for drink sold in supermarkets and off-sales. 

It is estimated that minimum pricing would lead to a bottle of own-label supermarket vodka rising from the £7 to around £10.50 and an average bottle of wine would cost at least £3.60.

Christina McKenzie from the charity Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “We are disappointed at the position Labour has taken in advance of evidence to the Health Committee. This flies in the face of all the advice and evidence from Public Health and other experts who have to deal with alcohol related harm.

“We strongly believe that establishing a minimum price for alcohol is the most important element of the range of proposals by the Government in the Alcohol Bill, and its rejection by Labour is a major blow which could set back attempts to make a positive change to Scotland’s drinking culture.”

Scotland has the eighth-highest level of alcohol consumption in the world and alcohol misuse is thought to cost the country £2.25billion a year in services and lost production.  Scotland also has one of the fastest growing chronic liver disease and cirrhoses rates in the world

Parents Drinking Causes Harmful Consequences on Scotland’s Children

By Jennifer Flett

ChildLine issued a new worrying report this week stating that in the last year 230 children in Scotland have called the charity help line about their parents’ drinking, with 87% claiming physical abuse as a consequence.

These figures demonstrate a different aspect of Scotland’s ongoing problems with alcohol, as they establish calls are disproportionately twice as high as anywhere else in Britain.

Spokesperson Alison Wales for ChildLine said of the new report;

“What we know about already is that kids continue to call about it and since a study in 2005 issued by Edinburgh University, where alcohol was found to be the biggest concern for children, the situation has not got better.

“Since the report, we now know that there are hidden children who are not likely to have talked about problems because of how chronic the situation is for them and it’s the crucial aim of ChildLine to voice their concerns to get the message out there.”

Government agency Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) worked in conjunction with ChildLine to complete this full in-depth report.

 Dr Evelyn Gillian, director of SHAAP and co-author of the study highlighted the consequences on children in this situation in saying,

“The degree of emotional stress experienced by children is taking away from their childhoods especially in cases where they are having to take on more responsibilities within the family.”

 In addition to Dr Gillian’s comment, Alison Wales spokesperson from ChildLine underlined a prevalent issue concerning attitudes to drinking;

 “ There is a lot seen in the media about young people drinking, a lot of negative press. In reality children and young people phoning in about parents drinking habits is heard much more consistently.

“Alcohol has been marginalized in terms of young people and binge drinking, especially in Scotland and our relationship with SHAAP is important in allowing society to look at the broader issues at hand.”

This September the Scottish Government unveiled new licensing laws in supermarkets, pubs and clubs, targeting the price of alcohol in hope of minimizing excessive alcohol consumption. 

The report recommends that to accompany new laws better education is needed in schools to teach the social aspects of alcohol abuse within a family, including family break-ups, bereavement and job loss and not just health effects.

Along with education another important factor in addressing the issue is to create more services for children and young people to turn to which are age appropriate and able to cater for the “hidden” children who may be at substantial risk because of limited options.

 Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, emphasized;

“The Government has to take the appropriate steps in tackling alcohol misuse as a matter of urgency because this impacts children more than drug misuse does in Scotland.”

British Winemakers Bask in Climate Change Sunshine

By J.C Dick

Vineyard Wanderers (Courtesy Reuters)

Two people wander gaily through a vineyard in the balmy autumnal sunshine, buckets in hand picking pinot noir grapes. However this is not Burgundy, or Champagne, this is Dorking, home to Denbies Wine Estate and the largest vineyard in England with 265 acres of land under vines.

Denbies are in the process of reviving a tradition of winemaking in Britain that has been relatively unseen for over 600 years. This revival is due to the global shift in climate that has seen the southern regions of England begin to have more temperate climates that are near perfect for wine production. Research carried out by the University of Burgundy has shown that the best latitudes for winemaking in the northern hemisphere may move 1,000 km (620 miles) north by the end of this century if nothing is done to stop global warming.

This has naturally caused a rift in opinion as British winemakers such as Denbies are keen to cash in on an improving climate but in traditional wine growing regions outrage is growing. These developments prompted fifty famous French chefs and sommeliers to write an open letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy urging action as fine wines, “jewels of French culture,” were in danger.

However though the genuine advent of British wines seems a little further off in the future as British vineyards are still struggling to ripen grapes that produce the most popular varieties of red wine. As well as these unavoidable natural issues, cost continues to prove a problem as English red wines sell for approximately 8 pounds a bottle, against an average price of 4.26 pounds for a bottle of wine in the UK. Wine critics and wine buyers remain unconvinced as Wine buyer Field said while some “very nice” reds are being made, Berry Brothers has been unable to find one it feels is good enough to stock.

Tories Try to Block Cheap Booze Ban

Is the end to cheap booze in sight?

by Una Purdie

A heated debate is expected in the Scottish Parliament today as the Conservatives try to vote down plans for a minimum price on alcohol.

Setting a minimum price per unit is a key plank of the Scottish Government’s alcohol strategy. The move would end high strength, cut-price booze such as supermarket own brand spirits and lagers.  Conservatives oppose what they call a ‘blanket hike’ on prices, which they say will unfairly punish responsible drinkers without tackling Scotland’s alcohol problems. They hope to strike a body blow to the plans by voting them down today.

Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Murdo Fraser said: “Increasing prices will not automatically reduce consumption. Problem drinkers will find the extra money and spend less on other things, such as food for them and their family.”

The Scottish Government dismisses these criticisms. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Minimum pricing will not raise the price of all drinks – it will target products sold at rock-bottom prices.”

Research from Sheffield University, commissioned by the Scottish Government, supports the case. It found a suggested minimum of 40 pence per unit would reduce consumption by 9% in harmful drinkers, cut alcohol-related deaths by nearly 19% in ten years and reduce hospital admissions by 10 per cent. The additional cost of alcohol for responsible drinkers was estimated to be £11 per year.

Minimum pricing also has strong backing from health organisations including the British Medical Association, Alcohol Focus Scotland and the World Health Organisation.

Lobbying against the proposal is the Scotch Whisky Association which warns of job losses should the policy get the go-ahead. They seized on a recent European court opinion which declared plans for minimum pricing on tobacco were illegal. The tobacco price plans had been put forward by France, Ireland and Austria but were said to distort competition and ‘were not necessary in order to protect public health.’  The SWA claims the same distortion of competiton would apply for alcohol.

With the Liberal Democrats also opposed to minimum pricing, the minority SNP Government is relying on votes from Labour to get the plans through the Scottish Parliament, but so far they are refusing to show their cards. Their new Health Spokesperson, Jackie Baillie seems less keen on the scheme than her predecessor Cathy Jamieson. The Chivas whisky distillery, employing 600 people, is situated within her constituency.

The conservatives have brought the issue to the chamber before the final bill has been published. While today’s vote is not binding, it will set the tone of the debate for the months to come.

Supermarket cheap

By Carolyn Mearns and Kenny Simpson.

Supermarkets are flaunting strict new alcohol guidelines with the sale of cheap booze, according to health experts.

Debra Evans, a Bristol NHS chief executive has warned that despite price increases in alcoholic drinks, supermarkets are still providing cheap and accessable alcohol.

Yet stores across the country are promoting the sale of low price liquor on their online sites by offering cheaper alternatives and recommending different brands.

Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco offers a 2 lt bottle of Strongbow cider for £2.78, the same shockingly low price provided by both Asda and Sainsbury’s. Whilst the later offers 70 cl of vodka for just under £7.

 threshersThe discovery comes after the announcement that First Quench Retailing, owners of 1300  high street off licences Threshers, Haddows and Wine Rack has gone into administration placing 6,500 at risk.

The company has been struggling following strong competition from low price drink purchasing at supermarkets.

First Quench Retailing faced backlash after failing to tell employees about the financial situation.

Disgruntled employee Andy Brent, 25 said: “I found out about this in this morning’s newspaper. Let me tell you, it came as a shock. I’m angry that I had to find out this way instead of being told by the company. I’m not sure what im going to have to do next, probably go on the dole.”

First Quench said in a statement: “It is with great regret that the board was not able to brief our colleagues prior to [the announcement] being made public.”


Local residents suffer from Grassmarket revamp

(curtosy of bestofedinburgh.com)
(courtesy of Best of Edinburgh website)

By Ross Doyle

The Grassmarket area of Edinburgh is now facing problems with the lead up to the festive period, as the British drinking culture continues to disturb local residents.

The area as benefited from a £5 million rejuvenation to promote the area and attract more visitors, with the introduction of outdoor seating and more pedestrian space. This has attracted more visitors to the area while sadly promoting more drink related disturbances and an increase in stag and hen parties.

The outdoor seating areas were strictly introduced for dining purposes, while these rules have been frequently ignored according to Paul Duncan of Manager of Mama’s Pizza located within the area who said “this year it was a mess, no-one seemed to enforce the regulations. “He also added that”one of the rules was there should be no advertising of alcohol, but one of the pubs had huge umbrellas with a beer advert.”

A city spokesperson confirmed a review on the problems would take place, but there was no guarantee of any enforced changes to the current layout.

Councillor Mowat of the the City Centre Neighbourhood Partnership said “some residents are suffering weekly problems because of drunks, which included people fighting, singing and urinating through letter boxes and closes.”

With the festive period fast approaching, the problems are likely to increase and local groups have continued to put pressure on the council to act on the current situation.

Alcohol responsible for two thirds of ambulance call outs

imagesby Anna Fenton

A BBC Scotland investigation this week reveals that alcohol plays a major part in 68% of all Scottish Ambulance Service call outs at weekends.

Alcohol awareness week runs from 4th – 10th October and aims to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol abuse and encourage responsible drinking across Scotland. Chris Sorek, Chief Executive of Drinkaware, says: ‘There is no doubt that too many people are drinking too much, not only putting themselves at risk of major health problems but also placing a huge burden on the NHS. In addition to health services for people suffering from the effects of alcohol misuse, preventative methods are also key. Education must play a central role in tackling alcohol misuse – it’s imperative that people know what they’re drinking and how it will affect them.’

Edinburgh South Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Fred Mackintosh, commented, ‘I fully support alcohol awareness week. It is vital that we do more to raise awareness, particularly amongst young people about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

‘The figures from the Scottish Ambulance Service highlight just how widespread and damaging the effects of alcohol abuse are in Scotland.   Alcohol related call outs are largely preventable if, as a nation, we can adopt a more responsible approach to alcohol consumption… Governments need to focus on creating the culture change needed to tackle Scotland’s battle with the bottle and using existing laws to crack down on irresponsible retailers and bars.’

Alcohol awareness week comes in the wake of increasingly stringent government legislation concerning alcohol licensing.

Ambulance Service are overwhelmed by Alcohol Call-Outs.

Latest figures from the ambulance service reveal that 68% of all weekend calls which require paramedic assistance are caused by alcohol abuse. The incidents can range from anti-social behaviour, people injuring themselves from being intoxicated with alcohol and ending up so drunk that they are in need of hospitalisation. This is beginning to delay the service from coping with real emergencies during the weekend beginning Friday running through Saturday and ending early Sunday morning. The figures are from the Ambulance Service records that have been taken every weekend since April 2009.

John Morton of the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “This means we are being called out to people who are simply drunk and incapable of moving whereas we could be dealing with more urgent and serious calls. I would encourage any initiative that would help us to have more responsible drinking.”

Labour health spokeswoman Cathy Jamieson feels the “Challenge 21” policy should now be mandatory and the police should be enforcing the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. This would stop alcohol being sold to underage children and see less calls being made to ambulance services.

Alcohol Abuse

The Government are trying to introduce a minimum price of alcohol which could save Scotland up to £950m over the next 10 years by reducing the harmful effects of alcohol and with the Scottish public not drinking as much, ambulance services would have more time to deal with serious emergencies. Alcohol would now be priced at 40p per unit level and would end up costing a moderate drinker £11 more a year, however a heavy drinker could be spending £137 more a year.

Minimum Prices for Alcohol to be set

photo courtesy of smh.com
photo courtesy of smh.com

Pressure is increasing on the government to set minimum prices for alcohol in England, following the publication of  Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson’s annual report.

This follows similar proposals made by the Scottish Government earlier this month.

According to Sir Liam: “Cheap alcohol is killing us like never before”. He hopes that setting a minimum price for alcohol could lead to over 3000 fewer alcohol related deaths and cut hospital admissions by 100,000 every year. 2007 saw 8724 alcohol related deaths in the UK alone.

If ministers at Westminster pass this proposal a minimum price of 50p could be set per unit of alcohol. This would make it illegal to sell a standard bottle of wine for less than £4.50. The price of an average six-pack of lager would increase to £6.00; almost triple the current supermarket price.

However, it is understood that Sir Liam’s proposal is likely to be rejected after it was met with strong opposition from Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He is concerned over the effect minimum price setting will have on “responsible drinkers”.

Scotland’s own plans  were dealt a blow over the weekend after the Scottish Whisky Association voiced concerns over the legality of setting minimum alcohol prices.

Nevertheless the Scottish Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon insists that this move is still under consideration in both Scotland and England:

“Alcohol misuse is a major problem north and south of the Border, and we welcome reports that the UK government are taking the first steps in following key aspects of the Scottish Government’s proposals. As in the ban on smoking in public places, it is clear Scotland is again ahead of the game”.