Scotland: politicians attack under-21 alcohol ban
Published:  25 June, 2008

An online petition against plans to ban under-21s from buying alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences in Scotland has been launched by the Liberal Democrats.

Shadow health secretary Ross Finnie MSP said Lib Dems “fundamentally disagree” with the proposal, which forms a central plank of the ruling Scottish National Party’s alcohol strategy document.

Opponents say the strategy is too hardline. As well as raising the drinking age to 21 in the off-trade, it calls for minimum prices on drinks, alchohol-only checkouts and a ban on three-for-two promotions.

The proposals were due to be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday June 25th.

Finnie said he agreed “radical action must be taken to tackle Scotland’s lethal relationship with alcohol”, but accused ministers of demonising under-21s. Labour and students’ unions have also voiced opposition to the proposed ban.

“If Scotland is to tackle its drink problem we need the overwhelming majority of young people who drink responsibly on-side and campaigning and setting an example to their generation,” said Finnie.

The Lib Dems were more open to other areas of the strategy document. Finnie said plans to charge retailers a social responsibility fee to help combat drink-related crime was “an interesting proposal”.

Policy makers and industry bodies in England are watching the situation closely, as the government in Westminster prepares its own alcohol plan for England and Wales – due later this year.

Scottish ministers say alcohol abuse costs taxpayers £2.25bn annually.

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