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2013 March Minimum Pricing Debate

The Minimum Pricing controversy has been in the news a lot recently (BBC article) and I wanted to add my thoughts to the debate because I feel that as a member of the alcohol industry my opinion is relevant and so are yours as readers of this Whisky Blog!

I think that it is good that action is being taken to address the alcohol problem in this country. Scotland has one of the highest alcohol related death rates in Europe and although it is going down, it is still an issue which needs to be addressed. However, I do not think that minimum pricing is necessarily the right way to do it. I have detailed below a couple ideas (some of them controversial) which I want your feedback on so we can share the debate.

Leave it Be – This is a simple one. As this article from the Scotch Whisky Association suggests Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is getting better and alcohol related death rates are going down. Furthermore, the research behind the minimum pricing has been called into dispute. Why not continue without minimum pricing and allow Scotland’s drink related trend to go down naturally.

Privatise the NHS – If the NHS were privatised and people forced to take out insurance – the cost of which is dictated by their health – would they take greater care of themselves and their drinking habits? Further to this point, if the Government no longer had to pay for the NHS there would be a considerable drop in tax; which of course would be cancelled by the health insurance equation. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty, the Government would no longer need to do health campaigns as health and drinking would not be their responsibility. The other side of the coin is that the divide between rich and poor could swell even more than it is. Do we really want to risk one of our greatest institutions to find out if this would be a success?

Reduce the working week and increase funding in recreation– British people work some of the longest hours in Europe which causes increased levels of stress and mental illnesses. Hell everyone knows someone that is burning out. What is the cure? Yep you guessed it, good old fashioned alcohol. In an age of Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and X-Boxes we have created a culture where people just sit at home and drink. We are being caged into our homes by the increasing cost of recreational activities; having a pint in your local, booking five aside pitches, bowling and even sitting in a café for a wee cake have become a luxury that many of us cannot afford.

How do you resolve these deeper cultural issues…pump money into transport to get people back in towns, subsidise gym/fitness memberships, social clubs and host more community lead events. Encourage people to move back into the towns by reducing cost of living in them. Ah but this is just too obvious. The powers at be will not make these changes in a Britain of cuts. Interesting thought though.

Everything in moderation including moderation itself – Like Tam we have all been in a situation where we have been a blethering, blustering, drunken blellum. However, common sense is a given and being aware of your own drinking habits is fundamental to this whole issue. The government cannot force people to be sensible and I would rather not live in a nanny state which punishes the majority because of the actions of an ever evolving minority that is drinking less and less anyway.

At this stage Minimum Pricing will not impact on my prices directly and I think it will be difficult for any government to gauge its real impact as figures already suggest alcohol related deaths in Scotland are going down.

The beauty of Whisky is the sense of community that surrounds it. Whisky tastings with friends are really fun and it can be done anywhere and all you need are couple bottles of Whisky to share. But, there is also that comfort you get when after a long week you have a quiet night in with a good book and a delightful wee dram.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and stoking the fires of debate on the issue.


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