We can all get on board with celebrating hosting the Commonwealth Games or thinking more should be spent on Education or NHS. But sometimes it's best to be at loggerheads, roll the sleeves up and get stuck into a good old-fashioned political ruck.
So, to that end, God bless alcohol.
Yes, in an age where parties are falling over themselves to be the most 'radical' we can only conclude that the SNP will be one of the few who actually deserve that tag given their potential new policies on solving the problems associated with binge-drinking. Note, of course, that this is a pre-legislative consultation document. In other words, they are coming up with ideas and throwing things up flagpoles rather than nailing their colours to the mast on this.
But the gernal direction that they are taking on fighting binge-drinking and anti-social behaviour is highly commendable.
These policies are:
- Raise the limit for purcahsing alcohol in off-licenses to 21
- Reprice drinks to a minimum of 35p per unit of alcohol
- Have dedicated checkouts in some of the larger supermarkets
- Increase of financial support for alcohol prevention, treatment and support services
And let's remind ourselves of the unique list of problems that Scotland faces with regard to alcohol. This is taken from today's Scotsman's highly complimentary "Tough measures are what alcohol abuse requires" opinion piece:
"The annual cost of alcohol misuse in Scotland is estimated at £2.25bn, with alcohol related deaths more than doubling in the past decade. We also have one of the fastest-growing liver cirrhosis death rates in the world. Our casualty wards every weekend are full of victims of drunken assault. … It is also useful to remember that many previous campaigns, initiatives and task forces designed to combat alcohol abuse have failed to make an impact."
So it's fair to say that anything other than a full-on approach to tackling this problem from the SNP would have (quite rightly) been derided as being limp and ineffective.
The raising of the price of alcohol per unit, the inability to buy over the counter until you're 21 and the inconvenience of having to go for a separate checkout to buy alcohol are all prices worth paying to reverse the trends noted in The Scotsman above. A drastic decrease in neds hanging around street corners, random violence down and NHS pressures eased all sound good to me.
And what more proof do we need that it can be effective than looking to West Lothian where a six-week trial has seen unquestionable descreases in anti-social behaviour and vandalism. Yes, it's true that fake ID and getting "Chantelle's" big brother to buy you booze is a way around these new measures but the inconvenience will be enough to make a big dent in the problem. As we've seen with West Lothian of course.
Of course, the partisan political manouevring and hand-wringing has already begun but Scotland in general needs to think big on this one, a mindset that it has so miserably failed at for decades.
So yes, for a Government that's been accused of being populist and not being brave enough to take the difficult decisions, I think we can all agree that the SNP mean serious business when it comes to tackling one of Scotland's deepest, darkest ills.