Supermarkets would be forced to charge a minimum of £10 for a bottle of wine under plans outlined by Scotland's pub bosses yesterday.
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has urged ministers to dramatically hike alcohol in a bid to save bars from closure.
Its proposed £1 a unit 'minimum price' would send bills soaring for families. A can of standard lager would cost at least £1.76 and a bottle of whisky would rise to £28.
Now, I don't live in Scotland and, as things stand, it looks like I never will, but does the SLTA really believe that the way to draw drinkers into their boozers is to shaft them with extortionate drinks prices at the off-license? This bone-headed proposal has to be the most transparent attempt to co-opt temperance rhetoric for commercial profit since Coca-Cola came out in favour of Prohibition.
It's always been obvious that once a minimum price was set, it would rise ever upwards until alcohol was unaffordable to most people. Earlier in the year, I commented that:
With the principle now in place that the state has the right to decide how much a product should cost, there will now be a continuous campaign to create a minimum price per unit. Once that it done, every scare story about 'Booze Britain'—whether true or not—will be accompanied with a squeal from fake charities to increase that minimum price. Forever.
What I didn't expect was for the demands for a higher minimum price to arrive before the legislation has even been put before parliament, let alone that it would come from the a faction of the drinks industry.
Here we have yet another interest group that thinks it can save its own skin by throwing its customers under the prohibitionist steam-roller. It really is pathetic the way the pub industry is trying to portray their grog-shops as some sort health club these days. According to the SLTA...
"the only safe environment for the consumption of alcohol is within our licensed premises."
Nothing cynical or self-serving about any of that, is there? And, actually, I take issue with the idea that it is safer to drink in a crowded room full of drunk strangers than it is to drink at home in front of the telly.
And you can save all this social responsibility clap-trap while you're about it. This is a scene repeated in every pub I go to...
"Vodka and tonic, please."
"Yeah, go on then."
I'm not complaining about this. You hardly need to twist my arm to get me to order a double and some of those drunk strangers are lovely people, but pubs are not community centres and they are not there to promote healthy living. Anyone who tries to portray them as such is heading for a fall when the temperance nuts point out the disparity between the myth and the reality. You're the pub industry, for God's sake. You sell a known "carcinogen" and "poison" as far as these people are concerned. Do you really think you can be friends with them?
And how about this sanctimonious twaddle from the SLTA website?
The cost of alcohol abuse to Scotland is simply unsustainable in economic and social terms and the newly appointed first Minister has already pledged to re-introduce legislation to bring in minimum pricing, as a priority...
Reports from Childline and other leading children’s charities have long highlighted the cost to our families when alcohol is widely abused in Scottish homes and the new parliament offers the chance to effect serious changes, and everyone involved has been invited to contact their MSP’s to demand this change.
Look at the compassion! Can you see their furrows of worry? Won't somebody please think of the children? I can just picture these guys holding hands with Don Shenker as they frolic in a meadow. But wait, what's this? Don Shenker has turned around, stabbed them in the back and is running off laughing maniacally. Who could have seen that coming?
The SLTA even has a special website where they
As I have said before, there is no way of levelling the playing field between the off-trade and the on-trade because they provide two completely different services. The off-trade sells alcohol. The on-trade sells an experience and an environment. The public understands that the two are different which is why we have traditionally been happy to pay significantly more for a drink in a pub than for a can of lager in a shop.
Since 2006, however, the experience of being in a pub has become much less pleasant for a large minority—and frequently a majority—of Scottish pub-goers. It has, indeed, become so unpleasant and pointless to be in a place where a drink can't be combined with a smoke that many of these people have chosen to experience it much less often, if at all.
In fairness to the SLTA, they have never denied the devastating effect of the smoking ban. They opposed it at the time and they continue to call for it to be amended.
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association said the law change had resulted in the closure of hundreds of pubs and the loss of thousands of jobs.
Its chief executive, Paul Waterson, said the predicted upturn in new customers attracted by smoke-free pubs had "simply not materialised".
It goes without saying that the SLTA aren't saying this because they're keen defenders of civil liberties or property right. As with all industry lobbyists, they're worried about their bottom line and the smoking ban has—contrary to the routine lies of the tobacco control freaks—been very bad for business.
But even if we accept that opportunism goes with the territory for corporate lobbyists, the SLTA's attempts to punished drinkers—ie. their own customers—for exercising free choice is particularly loathsome. Do they really think we're going to reward them for treating us like this?
You cannot bully people into going where they don't want to go. Even if the price of a supermarket pint was the same as a pint from the pub, many people would still rather drink at home with a cigarette than go out and drink in the street—which, for them, is what the 'pub experience' now consists of.
As Belinda says, the prospects of minimum pricing working while Scotland shares a border with England are nil. Although the thought of rum-runners and bootleggers hurtling up the A1 is an amusing one, the sad truth is that the Scots will then appeal to the 'level playing field' and demand that the rest of the UK follows suit. Which, knowing the greed and cowardice of the political class, is exactly what will happen.
Is there any aspect of the pub debate that is not a cess-pool of cant and hypocrisy? If I see one more politician who voted for the smoking ban crying crocodile tears about the state of the pub industry, I may throw up. CAMRA are no better, climbing into bed with both the anti-smoking brigade and the temperance lobby in their crusade against any pleasure that doesn't appeal to overweight, middle-aged Jethro Tull fans. Alcohol Concern are, it goes without saying, paid shills and neo-prohibitionists whose world would fall apart if they told the truth for one day. The pub industry, almost to a man, switched sides on the smoking ban as soon as they realised that exemptions for private members' clubs would adversely affect their business. And the SLTA, one of the few groups to have taken a consistent stand against the ban, now wants to torment their customers until they take their rightful place standing outside empty pubs in the rain.
A plague on all their houses. It's got to the stage where I'm now officially on the side of Tesco's. How the hell did that happen?