As a group, the Scottish have a drinking problem. I'm not going to deny this - nor am I going to deny that something needs to be done about it. Adult Scots buy 23% more
alcohol than other UK adults. However, I'm not certain that what is being done is terribly sensible.
This week, the Scottish Government (formerly Executive) introduced laws preventing offers such as "three for two" on alcohol in supermarkets. The intention is good - Supermarkets shouldn't be seen to promote binge drinking, after all. The impact is different.
Some supermarkets are offering online discounts - you buy your alcohol from England at the three for two price and you get it delivered to your door. Brilliant.
Others are reducing the price of alcohol to levels comparable with England - so it a bottle of wine at £6 is in a 3-for-2 promotion in England, a single bottle will be available at £4 in Scotland.
To the supermarkets, this makes perfect sense. Indeed, you could argue that it's a necessary consequence to avoid complaints of supermarkets making excessive profits from customers in Scotland vs England. Indeed, the Scottish Government (formerly Executive) would probably frown on that.
There are similar issues with minimum pricing for alcohol - particularly if applied in part of the UK rather than the whole. It's a simple enough principle - follow the money. If you introduce a law, who benefits?
The most woefully naive quote I have seen on the topic is from a representative of the Scottish Government (formerly Executive) who I won't name here. She expressed disappointment that some retailers would not be respecting the spirit of the law, but emphaised future plans for a minimum price. In the meantime, she believed the measures would still have some effect, stating: "...if somebody is going to buy one bottle of wine, as they intended to do when they went into the supermarket, instead of three bottles, that they are tempted to buy because it is on offer, then that is helping us reduce alcohol over-consumption."
Now I'm quite happy. I'll be able to get reduced prices on the single bottle of wine I'm likely to buy. And as I drink it, I'll discuss the incredible idea that anyone should respect the spirit of the law.
Not a problem in theory. Of course you should - laws are generally made for good reasons. But if there are loopholes in the law, then you (particularly if you are a trained lawyer should)
The law is, admittedly, a weaker form of law than the Scottish Government (formerly Executive) wanted, but it's so weak as to be virtually counterproductive. The impact could be predicted by someone with only a basic grasp of law or economics. Or shopping. Or public opinion and human nature. Or the internet.
Alcohol is a serious issue, and the complexities around it are immense. This move, while well intentioned, is largely pointless.