Letters: Now more than we ever we need preventative measures to tackle our alcohol problem

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STRUAN Stevenson (“We’ve had 12 years of a prohibitionist SNP war on alcohol. It has utterly failed”, The January 16) rehearses well-worn alcohol industry arguments against alcohol regulation, characterising anyone in favour as a prohibitionist. Strange timing, in the middle of a pandemic when many of us are turning to drink and our NHS is under severe pressure.

Most Scots recognise that Scotland has a problem with alcohol, many of us through direct experience: a trip to A&E after a drunken fall; the breakdown of a relationship due to someone’s drinking, or the loss of a family member or friend.

Our collective problem became too big to be ignored as death rates doubled between 1990 and the early 2000s, driven by increased consumption of low-cost, shop-bought alcohol. Mr Stevenson’s own party accepted that alcohol had become too cheap and voted in favour of minimum unit price in 2012. Addressing the price, availability and marketing of unhealthy products is essential to reducing the harm they cause. This has been accepted for decades on tobacco, with significant success. The sugar tax and minimum price have shown regulation works for unhealthy food and alcohol too. Now more than ever we need preventative policies which save and improve lives and reduce demand on our NHS.

Alison Douglas, chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland, Glasgow G1.

CULPRITS FOR OFF-SALES RESTRICTIONS

WHATEVER the merits, or otherwise, of Struan Stevenson’s column on the SNP and its alcohol policies, he should at least try to get his facts right. He is wrong to accuse Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP of introducing, in 2009, the ridiculous ban on the off-sale of alcohol before 10am. This was introduced under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. An overnight off-sales ban was not in the Coalition Executive’s bill. But, as a result of concerns about the purchase of late night carry-outs raised during the bill’s committee stages, amendments were tabled at the final stage of the bill. They would have banned off-sales between 10pm and 3am – a reasonable and proportionate response to the concerns.

Sadly, this was not macho enough for some Labour and SNP MSPs. So, at the last minute, they tabled alternative tougher amendments. The SNP’s Bruce Crawford wanted to restrict sales to the period between 8am and 11pm, while Labour’s Frank McAveety wanted a 10pm to 10am ban. Sadly, the McAveety amendment won with the support of the votes of Labour, SNP, Conservative, Green and miscellaneous other MSPs. All the Liberal Democrat MSPs opposed the amendment, but they were joined by just four others – two SSP MSPs, an Independent MSP and Labour minister Susan Deacon. Bizarrely, the Greens and another Independent MSP later switched sides to oppose what they had just voted for.

So if you visit a shop at 9.30am and find yourself unable to buy a bottle of wine or whatever, it is clear who is to blame for protecting you, and society, from the damage which they seem to think could be caused by buying alcohol at such an ungodly hour. By all means curse the SNP, but curse also Labour and Mr Stevenson’s Conservatives.

Alistair Easton, Edinburgh EH12.

A CONTRAST IN MOODS

I WAS greatly saddened when learning a few years ago that Hugh MacDonald was retiring his pen, as his Saturday column was a much-anticipated joy compared to the mediocrity of many of his contemporaries.

Conversely, I was heartened when recently Hugh started to reappear, albeit occasionally, and his article today highlighting the absurdity of personal anger and how easy it is to find a platform today on the various social media outlets (“It makes my blood boil: Why does everyone seem to be so angry these days?”, The , January 16) was up to its usual high standard, combining seriousness and humour on a topic that is so prevalent and worrying in modern life.

Coincidentally, a fine example of the main thrust of this article appeared on the opposite page by your perpetually angry columnist Kevin McKenna (“Crony capitalism illustrates bankruptcy of British state”, The , January 16).

I look forward to more from Mr MacDonald in the coming year, as we sure need cheering up at this awful time.

James Martin, Bearsden.

* THE past year has seen much difficult and distressing news reporting. The rolling media news slots exacerbate the effects with hourly repetition, such that for many months I now only watch TV news slots at breakfast and six pm.

In my , the same items are again shown daily. Which leads me to Stuart Waiton and Struan Stevenson. For some time I now consider whether to give them a miss on their appointed day. Every article is negative, grumpy, complaining, with never-ending gloom and despair. Can I ask them perhaps, even just once a month, to find a hint of a grin, some light aside, an amusing insight to an item? If I stopped reading them will I have missed anything? Even Kevin McKenna has a moment.

Bob Wolfenden, Biggar.

ICE-COLD IN ALICE

I found the “Hard to swallow” item in Saturday’s Diary totally believable as well as amusing.

It reminded me of the time when my friends and I visited a “rough” pub in Alice Springs and asked for beers. The ice-cold bottles were duly placed in front of us.

Trouble is, I cannot drink from a bottle, so asked for a beer glass. The piano stopped playing and the bartender stared at me for what seemed like an age. Recovering his composure he went over to consult with his colleague, then both disappeared to come back later with said glass.

The bartender apologised for the delay, explaining that he had to get one from the restaurant next door. Looking around I realised I was the only one with a beer glass in hand.

Along with my cheeks, the ice-cold beer was by then considerably warmer.

Frances Nixon, Glasgow G14.

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