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My View: Scottish legislation must not just demonise alcohol

Published:  18 January, 2007

The Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) recognises the need to address Scotland's alcohol misuse. But some aspects of the Scottish government's new consultation on the issue are wrong and inappropriate.

The proposal to raise the age limit to 21 for off sales, for example, is discriminatory on a commercial and personal level. Rather than demonising alcohol, the government should be concentrating on changing our culture and encouraging awareness of sensible drinking.

SGF members are highly responsible community retailers who are already at the forefront of tackling under-age drinking through voluntary initiatives such as "Challenge 25".

But they work in a climate of fear. Mistakenly selling alcohol to someone underage already comes with the threat of losing your business or your job - as well as fines and prison sentences.

Rather than creating new legislation, the government needs to enforce the existing laws. It must clamp down on rogue retailers who wilfully sell to children, and take more action against both under-18-year-olds who attempt to purchase alcohol.

Retailers will step up to the challenge. But politicians must accept that we need support when selling age-related products: they should get behind SGF's campaign for one nationally recognised proof-of-age card.

John Drummond is chief executive of the Scottish Grocers' Federation