The SNP’s Minimum Pricing on Alcohol: A policy conceived in a brewery

Yesterday (15.11.17), the policy the SNP hoped to introduce in Scotland, until it was taken to the Courts, has officially been given the green light. The Supreme Court found that the policy to set minimum alcohol prices (50p per unit) did not breach EU law, as it was hitherto claimed by the Scotch Whisky Association. The policy in Scotland will see the cost of cheap alcoholic beverages being hiked up for the purposes of moderating an alleged “binge-drinking culture” and to stop Scots from endangering their health and safety. The policy itself was bolstered in 2012 by UK Government Tory bigwigs such as Cameron, May and Hunt. While the Tories in England rightly shuffled away from the troubles of codifying such a policy, the Scots have rashly braved on.

Afloat in the sea of barmy Scottish laws, the new law is yet another threat to civil liberties in the tartan nation to the north.  Scotland has already legislated to make offensive tweets and sectarian sports songs arrestable offences. The named person scheme will actively erode the rights of parents to be precisely as the title would suggest.  This policy concerning alcohol is yet another tile in the hideous scotch mosaic of Nanny state politics. In fact, Scotland will be the first nation in the world to go this far to further thwart people from purchasing cheap alcohol beyond conventional measures or outright prohibition. Of course, the policy aims to suppress binge drinking by increasing all people’s prices on otherwise cheap alcohol, even those that have no intention of drinking themselves under the table. What the policy then amounts to is blaming ordinary Scots for the problems of a small minority of drinkers. It is like socialism: helping the worse-off by attacking the well-off. Just like such a failed experiment, this policy is bound to flush the spirits (not in the sense of vodka or whisky) of those it aims to fix. Like the vindictive teacher who gives an entire class detention for the few ruffians at the back that misbehave, the policy is inexcusable for clearly punishing blameless people as if they were no different to the blameworthy. It assumes no difference between, say, a cleric and a drunkard, within the market.

Whether it deters some from binge drinking or not, in a “free society” it shouldn’t matter. The habits of individual Scots, provided they are not breaking the law or wasting Government services, are of no concern to their devolved (evolutionarily speaking as well as legally) government. The Government should not look at the lives of their citizens as mere statistics, and they should not be tempted to exchange sloppy solutions for freedoms that their citizens are very rightly entitled to hold. People should have the right to be unhealthy or intoxicated, provided they reap the natural consequences, just as they have the right to be fat or lazy, as responsible, self-aware citizens.

A pub in Edinburgh 

There are ways in which the Government could appropriately deter inebriated rascals wreaking havoc in their streets and within their livers that does not include damaging the entire community at the same time. The Government could roll out harsher penalties to those that commit crimes while under the influence. The State could put the healthcare bill on those hell-bent on alcohol-fuelled self-destruction, and not the tax payers. But perhaps the Government understands two possibilities: (a) it may look more moral to share out tiny punishments amongst the entire collectivity than to inflict a proper one on those that deserve it, or (b) the idea of making health bills individualised for those that misuse alcohol may jumpscare Scots in reflex of their fears of losing their NHS privileges. It would be strange if the former is true if the slippery slope in the latter case seems fictitious when it comes to civil liberties but not when it comes to the right to NHS services. Trivial, too, that the Scottish Government in this case, despite all its left wing inclinations, would rather see that more money goes to private companies than for it to stay in the pockets of the poor when of course those that will be hit hardest by this policy will be precisely those less well-off. Perhaps the most troubling fact of the case is that there is plenty of evidence to suppose that the idea itself is not going to change the culture of binge drinking in Scotland. Many nations such as Norway have highly inflated prices on alcohol, courtesies of the Storting, yet their culture of binge drinking tenaciously lives on.

Little by little, Scotland is manifestly losing its cherished clutch over the title of a free country. While the Scottish are being penalised for drinking, I as an Englishman will remain hopeful that the Scots themselves will penalise their Government for being too gluttonous with their liberties, ceaselessly guzzled down for such futile endeavours, in their next elections. Their policies seem evermore to be as dim-witted as the drunkard they are trying to temper. With the Devolved Government to the north slithering towards a plainly authoritarian style of governance, here is hoping the Scots do not shout “aye!” to another sickening round of SNP rule in their next election.


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