Scottish Labour has launched a concerted effort to cap the amount of caffeine in some alcoholic drinks such as Buckfast wine.
Scottish Labour has launched a concerted effort to cap the amount of caffeine in some alcoholic drinks such as Buckfast wine. In January, BBC research revealed that in Strathclyde alone, Buckfast was associated with 5,638 crimes between 2006 and 2009. Neuroscientist Dr Steven Alexander explained that a bottle of Buckfast contained as much as eight times the amount of caffeine found in a can of coke which he concluded could make someone “very anxious” and “very angry”.
Labour’s shadow health and wellbeing secretary in Holyrood, Jackie Baillie, has now tabled amendments to the Alcohol Bill which would set a limit of 150mg of caffeine per litre of alcohol, effectively banning the sale of Buckfast; she said:
“I believe that the risks involved in consuming caffeinated alcohol are so great that the Scottish Government must take action. The research suggests that you are more likely to end up in hospital or be assaulted if you drink these products.”
Scottish Labour has also tabled amendments to reverse plans to enable local licensing boards to ban off-sale purchases to under-21s. Dr Richard Simpson MSP who sits on the Drugs and Alcohol Misuse cross-party group said:
“If someone is responsible enough to vote, they should also be able to buy a bottle of wine.”
And Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland, has warned:
“Local changes in age restrictions for alcohol would be unworkable and, given they could be done without consultation, entirely undemocratic.”
Responding, Michael Matheson, a Scottish National Party member of the Scottish Parliament Health Committee, commented:
“It is ridiculous that despite clear evidence from pilots that an age limit of 21 can have dramatic effects on antisocial behaviour, crime and drunkenness in problem areas, Labour are content to leave councils, police and local communities with no action to take.”
In 2008 however, the youth wing of the SNP fought against the government’s original proposals for a blanket ban on sales of alcohol to all under-21s.
The main bone of contention, however, remains the proposals for a minimum price for alcohol, set at 45p per unit by Scottish health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon. At the time of setting it earlier this month, she commented:
“It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has plummeted, alcohol-related deaths, disease, crime and disorder have spiralled. It cannot be right that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit for less than £3.50.”
Labour, Lib Dems and the Tories have vigorously opposed the plans, opting instead to use duty as the main lever for addressing the problem of cheap alcohol.
Jackie Baillie has also said that:
“No amount of bluster from the SNP can hide the fact that their proposals for Minimum Unit Pricing are effectively a tax on the poor paid directly to the shareholders of the big supermarkets.
“The Scottish Government’s own study found that a minimum price of 45p per unit would deliver over £140 million of extra revenue for retailers. But it wouldn’t create a single extra penny for more police or the NHS.”
Calls for a better use of duty to control alcohol prices and Labour’s proposals for a reduction on the level of caffeine in drinks were supported in a report (pdf) published by the independent Alcohol Commission, established by Scottish Labour.
At the heart of the debate remains the startling findings last year that Scots drank 25 per cent more alcohol per head of population than England and Wales. However heated the debate may get, something needs to be done quickly to address what the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland has previously dubbed a “growing health time bomb”.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.