LABOUR UNVEILS WIDE-RANGING PACKAGE OF MEASURES TO TACKLE ALCOHOL MISUSE

Scottish Labour has today (Tuesday) unveiled a comprehensive package of measures to tackle Scotland’s damaging relationship with alcohol.

The proposed Bill contains a total of 14 measures, spanning public health and criminal justice policy.

The Bill will be steered through Parliament by Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP and consultant psychiatrist in addictions, and Graeme Pearson, the former director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
The proposed Alcohol (Public Health & Criminal Justice) (Scotland) Bill includes measures to:

  • Stop retailers flaunting the new ban on bulk-buy promotions by closing down a loophole in the law.
  • Require government to report on progress on public health and child protection licensing objectives.
  • Clamp down on alcohol marketing in public places, especially where children may be exposed.
  • Introduce a legal limit of 150 mg per litre of caffeine of pre-mixed alcoholic drinks.
  • Evaluate and improve alcohol education and public information campaigns.
  • Tighten the law to prevent unfair discrimination against 18-21 year olds in off-sales.
  • Give local communities a greater say in licensing decisions.
  • Establish a National Licensing Forum to drive forward improvements in licensing laws and devise solutions to emerging problems.
  • Give local authorities powers to roll out ‘bottle-tagging’ to help the authorities crack-down on retailers selling to those under age and proxy purchasing.
  • More targeted disposals for those convicted of alcohol-related offences.
  • Fast track treatment for individuals taken into custody who are perceived to have an alcohol problem.
  • Give courts powers to ban individuals from drinking in specified places to help curb alcohol-related criminal or disorderly behaviour and to protect others from such behaviour.
  • Extend the successful Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTO) to cover offences where alcohol has been a factor.
  • Require GPs to be notified of any new conviction by patients where alcohol was a factor to ensure patient receives appropriate treatment and support.

Scottish Labour hopes that this wide-ranging suite of measures will receive support from all political parties, regardless of their view on the SNP’s minimum unit pricing bill due to be debated tomorrow. The Party formally lodged its proposal for the new Bill at Holyrood today and is urging people to respond to its consultation on the Bill entitled ‘Shifting the Culture’.

Dr Richard Simpson MSP, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, said:

“There are members in all political parties determined to tackle Scotland’s drink problem, but if we are to be successful we need to acknowledge there is no quick fix, silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution.

“This is a complex problem that demands a wide-ranging response. That is why Scottish Labour is launching not just one idea – but a comprehensive package of measures that we believe will help tackle Scotland’s problem with drink.

“By contrast, the SNP minimum unit pricing Bill has come up with a single proposal which will hand a multi-million pound windfall each year to big retailers and not provide a single penny more for police or our NHS. Regardless of your view on the government’s Bill, we recognise that a much more comprehensive approach is required to bring about the much needed culture shift we all want to see.

“If we work constructively together we believe we can put in place a broad range of fair, workable and effective measures. That way we can change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol not just for the better, but for good.”

Scottish Labour’s Graeme Pearson, who is former director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and will steer the criminal justice aspects of the Bill through Parliament, said:

“Over the years I have seen first-hand many individuals doing time for crimes committed whilst under the influence of alcohol, who under normal circumstances would never have done so. This wide-ranging suite of measures is a positive contribution to our national efforts to deal with the revolving door of justice that alcohol can cause.

“We need to break the vicious cycle of excessive drinking and offending by addressing the underlying causes of the offending – not just treat the symptoms. I believe these positive proposals are capable of receiving support from all political parties.”

Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists of Scotland, Dr Peter Rice, said:

“Several of these proposals are important next steps in reducing alcohol related harm.

“Improved controls on advertising, greater emphasis on public health in Licensing Board decisions and improved range and quality of alcohol interventions in criminal justice settings are all measures supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland.

“There has been progress in tackling alcohol problems in Scotland in recent years, but there remains much to be done and we hope that politicians will work together to maintain momentum.”

Former Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland, Dr Ken Lawton, said:

“As GPs, we see the damage that alcohol causes in our society on a daily basis. Screening and then undertaking interventions for those who are not drinking safely is an important part of GP’s work. The measure requiring notification by the court of convictions involving alcohol is an innovative measure which may help us to focus our work on those who most need help.”

Professor Alec Spencer, former Director of Scottish Prison Service and Honorary Professor in in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Stirling, said:

“The proposals contained in this consultation are to be welcomed as likely to create a more holistic approach to the problems of alcohol misuse, which cover social, health and offender issues. They should contribute to changing the culture underlying Scotland’s alcohol problems.”

General Manager of West Lothian Drug & Alcohol Service, Margot Ferguson, said:

“Arrest referral is a valuable part of a range of services which should be available to anyone who is getting in to trouble due to an alcohol problem that might not otherwise come to our services. Arrest referral is proven to reduce reoffending in the six months follow-up.”

Neuropsychologist, William McKinlay, said:

“I see many people with severe head injuries some of which are the result of violence, and the effects on the victims and their families are often lifelong. As a neuropsychologist, I recognise the dangers of mixing stimulants such as caffeine with a depressant such as alcohol, measures to restrict the level of caffeine in pre-mixed alcohol drinks are responsible and proportional. On that basis, I am in favour of restriction on the combination of caffeine and alcohol in pre-mixed drinks.

Of course, people could still mix the two for themselves but ready-mixed drinks make the combination of these substances more accessible.”

Group Manager of the Criminal and Youth Justice Service at West Lothian Civic Centre, Gillian Oghene, said:

“Alcohol problems are often found along-side drug problems, however even when it is an alcohol problem on its own, bringing alcohol within the treatment and testing order system as is being proposed is helpful to ensure that our clients get the incentive supervised treatment that they need.”