Saturday 23 January 2010


It seems that I am going to have to revise my thinking on the question of Minimum Pricing.

I have always felt that putting the price of the very cheapest alcohol up will not stop people who want to drink or who rather, are determined to drink come what may.

The government in Scotland have been for it and have proposed legislation. The Labour and Tory oppositions in parliament were against it. The Tories (with whom I agreed) suggested that if police used the power they already had that would be sufficient. (Well, I don’t know that it would be sufficient but it would go a long way to clearing up the streets.) The Labour opposition opposed it, because someone said to Iain Gray, “You are in opposition, so you must oppose stuff. OK?” And he blinked and nodded and blinked again and... he opposed, albeit ineffecually.

Last week it became apparent that the Labour Party in England had decided to include a minimum price for alcohol in their manifesto for this year’s election throwing the Scottish Labour position into somewhat embarrassing dubiety.

Now it seems that Ian Duncan Smith says that David Cameron should impose significant increases in taxes on beer, wine and spirits if elected prime minister. In an interview with The Times, the Tory’s social policy supremo accuses the supermarkets of “being as close to immoral as you can get” by selling alcohol so cheaply, and of “creating alcoholics”.

He says that the political parties are “in the grip of cowardice” for failing to advocate a big jump in the cost of alcohol for fear of alienating the voters before the general election. “We are into unpopular territory, but to deal with something like alcohol that is damaging the fabric of the nation we need to raise prices. There is a direct connection between the price of alcohol and consumption.”

With the Medical Officers of Health from both Scotland and England backing this policy, along with the BMA and the Royal College of Physicians not to mention the NHS Federation... and now, the English Labour and Tory parties seeming to come behind it, I think that I’m beginning to be a little outnumbered.

Needless to say, the drink manufacturers and the supermarkets were down on Mr Duncan-Smith like a ton of bricks, claiming that their selling of drink at rock bottom prices has nothing to do with the problem.

I’m going to give some very careful consideration to my views... and I may come back red faced and offer the Scottish Government a full and wholesome apology.


  1. Stay strong.
    1. UK alcohol is the most expensive in Europe/ World
    2. UK sentencing for drunkeness, domestic abuse etc is the lowest in Europe
    3. All anti alcohol/ tobacco charities in the UK are fake charities and get their funding from the taxpayers.
    4. The more expensive that you make alcohol then the more crime that will be experienced because there is no deterrent to crime in the UK
    5. Buckfast is the biggest cause of crime in the West of Scotland but won't be affected by the minimum pricing policy of 40p per unit ( costs £6 per bottle or 60p per unit )

  2. See above, it's a tax scam nothing more that's why the various parties are all in favour of it.

    Anyone who knows a little about the culture of those involved in binge drinking will already be aware that the intention is to get as drunk as possible and that is what these people will do anyway, by whatever means. If one route is closed off or made too difficult, then they'll turn to another means to achieve the same end. They want to be like that, it is their intent, as the proliferation of social networking sites very clearly shows when one reads those online diaries, and the convenience of mobile 'phones makes easy to do as a group.

    The government and opposition parties are just taking advantage of this phenomena to tackle the appearance but not the cause of the problem, that to them means tax it and rake in the excess from the law abiding too.

  3. The Scottish Conservatives under Goldie remain opposed, no matter the possition south of the border. Devolution ensures that we have that much autonomy over policy positions.

    So your not all that much outnmbered, you can still trust in auntie bella.

  4. How can it be right and good that alcohol in supermarkets can be cheaper than water?

    What exactly do all these people who oppose minimum pricing suggest? Implement existing law and come down on piss artists like a ton of bricks? Where exactly are we going to put all these drunks on a Friday and Saturday night? And how while they are all being arrested are we going to respect their human rights? It would be necessary to blitz city centres with police and stuff these people into cells like sardines rope in extra judges and hand down draconian sentences as a deterrent. Once that is all done then there is the problem of where to put them. Unless I am much mistaken our current prison population is more than maxed out so we are going to need more jails. So that is more police, more judges, more lawyers, more prisons, more police cells, more prison guards and finally more ex-cons. Gee that’s going to be expensive so no doubt an easier fix will be needed. Why not come down on the pubs instead? Are they not already disappearing like snow off a dyke? And are sales from off licences not already more than sales from pubs? I don’t see how closing pubs will change anything, there will just be more need for all those extra police to deal with anti-social street drinking and domestic abuse etc. Especially as that would just make boozers go to off licences all the more.

  5. Put up the price of one drug(alcohol) and many (young people) will simply move to another in a few years time you will notice an increase in other types of drug use.

    The problem with people seeking an out of this society will not go away until society changes.
    electing the vile English conservatives will only make the matter worse far worse.

  6. @ Munguin, it's a fallacy to say that supermarket water is cheaper than booze, because it isn't. I can get 1.5 litres of water for 19p at a Morrison supermarket, it's only when you pay for the label that you run into the more expensive area. Also the Abv of cheap beer is very low, you'd probably spend more time on the loo than actually drinking it.

  7. @ Mr Mxyzptlk............yes because Labour have done oh so much better lmao :-D

  8. QM: I have seen a unit (by that I mean a tin or a bottle) of supermarket own alcoholic drinks cheaper than a unit of own brand water so it is not a fallacy. The amount of alcohol in it is I would think incidental. Diverting the argument into these sort of backwaters just serves to prevaricate. What do you think we should do?

    It is just More mixed messages from the Tories then. I thought that conservatism meant little or no interference in the lives of people. How will locking them up when they are drunk fit in there? Or indeed increasing the price they pay for their alcohol at the tills? Of course more often than not with the Tories it means not interfering in the lives of the rich. Mrs Thatcher for example was a great advocate of the non-interference principle, that is why she reduced income tax and got rid of the upper threshold. But of course at the same time she increased VAT by 100%, so that meant a tax no longer applied to the super rich and the relatively well off got a reduction because you have to be working and earning a reasonable amount of money before paying income tax . While everybody had to pay 100% more for their luxuries so that effected the poor, unwaged OAPs etc relatively more as they don’t eat or drink any less heartily than a millionaire.

  9. Vat is probably the most unfair tax of all because it directly hits the pockets of the poor far more than the rich. I'm more in favour of a land value tax coupled with a flat rate non means tested benefits system.
    Society does not have to be the way it does, most politicians can't see out of the box of their own party leaders policies. Were we say to reduce government spending to the %age levels of 1997 we could in theory abolish income tax from the savings made, even remove fuel duty and Vat. But politicians wont do this as it means relinquishing control over the economy and the people tied into it.
    The less government we have the more money people have to spend on themselves, simples really. What government we had could then concentrate on the actual problems of looking after the elderly and the real sick, not trying to move the money around the system (expensively) from one pocket to another.

  10. QM: It can't be a tax scam as far as the Scottish government is concerned. They have no power to tax. In the case of the Scottish legislation, one of the things that put me off it, the extra money would simple go to the supermarkets.

  11. Anon:

    It's certainly true that our alcohol taxes are high (although I understand that it is higher in the Scandinavian countries). I wonder then, what the answer is. There must be one. I’m not sure, but I think that the scenes that we see in towns all over the UK are not replicated all over the world.

  12. Munguin:
    It seems that we have the pubs chucking out on a Friday/Saturday night with people too drunk to stand up, lying all over the pavements, fighting and vomiting, vandalising and urinating and dropping half eaten food all over the place, singing loudly, shouting, swearing and throwing things at passing cars which they mistake for taxis. In short they make life hell for anyone who lives in these areas and they make town centres no go areas for everyone else.

    The law states that pubs should not sell drink to people who are drunk. If you threaten to take away their licences, in accordance with the law, then that should sort that problem? Of course most pubs are now parts of huge chains which positively encourage over drinking. But unless these places make HUGE profits they will simply close down. They are not there to contribute to our culture, only to make money. Big problem.

    In any case, what is drunk? In the current culture apart from the fact that many bar staff would be beaten senseless, it would shut down all the pubs.... Not a good idea.

    Then there is the supermarket/corner shop problem. They sell drinks at cost, or under cost, to people who drink it in the street and parks. To be fair most supermarkets have a fairly strict regime as far as age is concerned; the corner shops less so. Police need to tighten up on estate shops selling drink to 12 years olds.

    But that won’t deal with the whole problem.

    Attitude is the problem. We need to persuade people that lying around on the ground being sick is not cool. We need help from footballers, soap stars and pop singers, people who have influence over younger people. Of course might help if parents gave some lead.

    Where are your 13 year old children madam? Down the park getting ratted?

  13. Niko:

    Labour has done no better than the Tories. Poverty is greater than it was 13 years ago. Division between rich and poor is greater than it was and hope at the bottom has all but disappeared.

    Labour has nothing to crow about matey....

  14. Dean: I don't think that this is the only answer... But I wonder how long it will be before the Scottish Tories come on board. Will they dare vote against the SNP when Mr Cameron is pushing it as part of his Broken Britain policies?

  15. Niko:

    You make a good point about simply changing drugs. The misery that people live in seems to demand that they find a way of blotting out reality on a regular basis... That's under Labour, the Tories and SNP....

    It's bigger than party politics, it seems. I suspect a lot of big business, pressure, and people feeling that the whole system is against them... may be the cause....

  16. Don’t you think that if it were as easy as implementing existing laws the Labour Government in London, that is very fond of quick fixes, would have done that already and then trumpeted the success from the roof tops? But they haven’t and the reason is because they can’t. Annabel Goldie knows this but she has the luxury of being able to espouse a policy she knows she will never be in a position to implement.

    We have all heard the reasons why the SNP’s policy wont work and for varying reasons but what we don’t hear is any suggestions that are any better or are any more likely to work. That will be why both the major parties in England are now stealing the SNP’s ideas. And also of course because they have none of their own, Labour because they are tired, moribund and worn out and the Tories because they never really had any other than to get elected.

  17. Munguin:

    Implementing the existing policy poses, as you say, many problems. We have gone far too far down the road of accepting drunkenness on the street for laws to be enforced now.

    I’ve tried to suggest alternatives in some of the posts I’ve made on the subject of drink.

    A few years ago it was considered cool to drink and drive, although it was illegal. Somehow we have changed that attitude. No one brags about how they drove home off their face any more, but they do brag about how much they drank in the pub, at home, in the park. It seems to be a Scottish thing. You need to be able to drink a lot to be cool.... Somehow we need to make it uncool to be legless. It shouldn’t be that difficult; how disgusting do drunks look? We need to get people onside who kids consider to be role models... If Amy Winehouse and Pete Docherty didn’t fall out of clubs unable to walk, perhaps people to whom they are heros wouldn’t do it either.... We need to get footballers and other sportmen and women on side....No one is going to listen to Annabel Goldie, Iain Gray or Alex Salmond.

  18. tris, hello dear, you and me we're a bit the same on this one. I'm confused too. Like what a Liberal Democratic person must feel all the time.

    Ye see, I don't think it's fair to use the price alone as a weapon, that's just a wee socialist twinge I get from the old days, when we girls in the Land Army got the same rations whether we were on the tractor or shovelling shit.

    But if the problem is cheap alcohol, then we should cut back on off-sales licences, particularly in the supermarkets. Alcohol should mostly be consumed on licenced premises, in good old-fashioned pubs with real Landladies that's the way to go if we want some good old Stalinist control over the proles.

    Ts that what these evil minimum-pricers want to foist on us, the bastards? I don't know...

    No really, I don't know. Now I don't know what side I'm on. What side are you on again? I'll go wi' you dear, haud ma hand...

  19. "It is just More mixed messages from the Tories then. I thought that conservatism meant little or no interference in the lives of people."

    Depends what kind of 'conservative' you mean.

    Whta you say is true Munguin, in regards to Thatcherism, which is associated with liazze-fair economic liberalism...

    However you have tories like me, Heath, MacMillan, IDS who all strongly support intervention by government into peoples lives occasionally. The levers of power should be pulled to create more equality of opportunity, and to curb the excesses of "immoral markets" [as IDS says when talking about the cheap booze market]...some conservatives [small c again] are like IDS in believing that the market wasnt the be-all and end-all that maggie cracked it up as.

  20. Sophia Sweetheart:

    Where on earth have you been... I dunno how many times I asked Munguin, "where's our Sophia?" I said.

    "Down the pub getting bladdered" he has always replied, and of course I believed him (well, you do with Munguin).

    Now, what side was I on again?

    Erm, I dunno. I don't know what to believe or what we can do... I know, I'll just follow you.

    Lovely to see you again.....

  21. Dean: One of the questions that will have to be answered is, what kind of Tory are we going to have. Your kind is fine; the other kind is downright odious (sorry).

    Of course government need to impinge on people's lives sometimes. Why on earth would we have them otherwise? I wonder who pulls the strings in the Tory Party. I doubt it's Cameron though. There will be older heads somewhere, probably in the House of Peers, and we shall have to wait to see what kind of government will be loosed on us.....

  22. Iran has one of the biggest drug use problems in the world and that in an Islamic society which prohibits alcohol.

    Mind an Iranian friend once said when i mentioned no alcohol in Iran 'Don't be silly it is just much more expensive but you can still get some'

  23. At least on Saturday night they don't have to pick their way through prostrate bodies though Niko.

    Many people seem to need some sort of drug to get them through life... not just here. It's pretty sad.

  24. Tris

    we live in a capitalist dominated world thats the problem.

  25. Dean the point is that Maggie talked a good talk but was still happy to socially engineer peoples lives using the tax system by doubling VAT, an iniquitous move intended to get the poor to pay for other tax breaks for the rich.

  26. Tris we are going to be getting a new one a Cameron, a happy clapping Bulingdon from Notting Hill who is everything to everybody and mummy is related to the Queen. Nepotism will be back on the agenda, constitutional reform for Scotland will be off it.

  27. Munguin,

    Sorry but even a One Nationist like me thoroughly approved of the Howe tax shift. By moving the bulk of taxation from income tax to indirect taxation it brought numerous benefits.

    It was actually somethin Heath also wanted to do, and he is unarguably a progressive Prime Minister and Tory. So, while the side effect may be that indirect taxation could be used as a form of social engineering, I am positive that was not the rationale for the shift in tax emphasis by Thatcher's regime, it just made much more economic sense.
    The law of unintended consequences I think applies!

  28. And Munguin,

    I disagree with your view that Cameron wil tax constitional reform off the agenda. I think precisely the opposite.

    Lets see who is right!

  29. Dean:

    Cameron, answering questions on his intentions for Calman, said that there would be no time for constitutional change in the first Tory government. All his time, energy and efforts would be taken up with trying to put right the economic mismangement of Labour....

    As for VAT doubling, one of its most horrific outcomes was that pensioners, who paid no income tax, (and other very very poor people)simply found that what they bought became dearer, without there being any corresponding increase in their income.

    Unintended consequences it may have been, but you would have thought, given Mrs Thatcher's proclaimed concern for pensioners, and her anger at the way Labour had treated them, that she might have foreseen this small problem....

    It was her job to ensure fairness for all the people...

  30. Thatcher was not known for her sympathy and open mindedness was she Tris!

    But I stand by the shift in the tax system as I said. If VAT shot up under maggie, then that is a matter for the relative judgement [or non-judgement] of the government of the day surely?

  31. Well yeah Dean, of course it was... It was bad judgement, in that she made no adjustment for the very poor.

    Essentialy I can see an argument that says that as much of what you earn should be yours and that it you decide to spend none of it, then you should be required to pay as little tax as possible. But, one of the big problems is that I doubt Thatcher even considered that there were people who didn't pay income tax. She just didn't know that there were people THAT poor.

    She should have .... she was THEIR prime minister too, and she knew a lot about their problems when she was criticising Jim Callagnhan.

  32. Niko:

    There's a site too much greed!

  33. I do not see how shifting the tax burden to the poor was in any way desirable. Getting rid of the top income tax threshold will directly benefit the rich while reducing income tax will benefit the moderately well off and the comfortable. Doubling VAT effects everyone the same be they pensioners scraping by on the minimum or millionaires. I am trying to think of the numerous benefits you mention but unless you are a millionaire I don’t see them.

    Strange how I remember Ted Heath as a bumbling idiot totally out of his depth as Prime Minister. I am happy to wait and see if Cameron is any way fair to Scotland, but you will forgive me if I dont hold my breath or indeed anything in anticipation.

  34. Tris; she knew exactly what she was doing, cutting taxes for the rich and increasing the tax burden on the poor. After all the rich voted for her and the poor did not. There were no accidental consequences.

  35. Munguin,

    You are entitled to your memory of Heath, and dare I say it- you have the advantage on me as you can remember him. I can only read and watch him through the lens of history.

    But as to the tax shift, it is more than as Tris [explains well]. It also meant that the UK looked more attractive- it is not cooincidence that when Labour tied to squeeze till the pips squeaked the poor paid the price!

    The key to the shift also made entrepreneurs more active. And these people are not neccessarily [or in most cases] millionaires. These entrepreneurs are small businessmen, employing in their local community. I think enabling their activity at the base of the economy is a good thing.

    So the tax focus shift was more than the broad principal of people having a right to keep more of their earnings. And income tax hurt many earners who were not millionaires Mungiun. It was simply a regressive way of taxing people.

  36. Please explain how doubling VAT makes small businesses more active or made the UK more attractive (to who?).

    Doubling VAT on radios makes them more expensive to everybody, however, a millionaire does not need more of them than an old age pensioner, therefore, the tax is a greater burden to the pensioner. The pensioner does not have an income and therefore pays no income tax so reducing the top threshold from say 60% to 50% does not make them any better off. However a millionaire will be considerably better off. Taking 1p off income tax makes every body who pays that tax slightly better off although not a pensioner or a person on a low wage as they don’t earn enough to qualify. In order to reduce the income tax burden it is necessary to increase the burden elsewhere to compensate and bring in the money the exchequer needs to pay the countries bills. Mrs Thatcher was well aware of how unfair this all was but she did it because the rich voted for her and the poor voted for Jim Callaghan.

  37. Spot on there Munguin.