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Why not make them sit on their hands while you’re at it, stop them scoffing those deep fried Mars Bars!


Posted At: 06 March 2009 17:00 PM
Related Categories: Future of Retailing


2 things I’ve picked up in the news this week, one ridiculous, one great.


First, the great: Scotland and Northern Ireland phasing out prescription charges. Us here in England aren’t as lucky, but there is hope…although why we should have to pay to be medicated is beyond me. It raises a lot of money for the NHS, yes, I’ll give you that, and I suppose it stops hypochondriacs heading off to the doctor every time they have an itch on their arse, but you know, I thought I paid other compulsory taxes that go towards the NHS? You could actually argue that having to pay for any medication isn’t giving us a free National Heath Service at all, but that’s a whole different can of worms. What I really want to write about is ‘the ridiculous’. Namely, Scotland outlining plans to set a minimum price for alcohol.


It’s not a good time to be a landlord in Scotland is it. First the smoking ban (on the plus side, the staff are more healthy, but there is less of them, since half had to be let go after a sharp decline in sales) and now this? Dear oh dear.


I wasn’t actually aware that Scotland’s love affair with alcohol was that much of an issue. It’s a well known fact that Scots like a tipple – I was up in Edinburgh at the beginning of the month and there certainly are a lot of pubs – but we all do. So what’s the problem?


The Scots have the highest rate for cirrhosis of the liver in Europe, and one of the worst alcohol-related death rates. Rising murder and crime figures are also linked to drink. A study conducted for the Scottish Prison Service between 1979 and 2007 and published this year discovered that alcohol use had soared, with 79.6% of the young inmates surveyed in the final year claiming alcohol as a contributing factor in their offences, compared to 47.9% in 1979. Respondents reporting that they had been drunk every day before their incarceration rose to 40.1% of those surveyed, up from 7.3% in the same period.


Oops. It appears things are getting a bit desperate after all.


From what I gather, the proposals suggest that a £0.40p minimum charge per unit of alcohol is introduced across the board. I’m not very good at maths and I don’t really understand volumes of alcohol but if you go by that scary misogynistic anti-drinking advert that’s running on TV at the moment and assume a large glass of wine is 3 units of alcohol, that’s £1.20 before you’ve even started! Are they going to add this on top of current charges? That would make an average glass of wine somewhere in the region of £4! £4! You can buy a drinkable bottle for that! But then I suppose that will go up too.


While I’m not in support of such a ban, since I feel it represents indignant nannying by the state and I can’t possibly get behind something like that, I do think it might actually be good news for retailers, at least. Maybe if everyone had the same starting price, independents would have a better chance of competing with the supermarkets; they would still have bulk buying power, of course, but a legal minimum price would be a good start.  


Basically, I agree with whoever I pilfered this quote from: "You can't change a culture by law", and I hope it really doesn’t come to that.


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