Scotland on Sunday had a long piece yesterday titled "The SNP's Drink Problem". This discussed minimum unit pricing of alcohol as a means of limiting binge drinking and associated social problems. There wasn't that much new in it and of course, it was mainly about the internal politicking that accompanies such things. One thing struck me about it though. The current unit price of alcohol - some kind of average I assume - is stated to be 43p for off sales. For cider it is 20p. The unit price over a bar is currently £1.31. I imagine the figures for England and Wales won't differ that much.
Now I usually leave this kind of thing to Mudgie, as he is much better at it, but it seems to me that any organisation or individual supporting increasing the minimum price in an effort to curtail anything is way off beam. Those for whom alcohol looms too large in their lives will still find ways to get smashed, probably at the expense of their family and own well being, or by illicit hooch or whatever, while those that have little by way of dosh, but drink responsibly at home, will get duffed in the purse to no good effect. I know these are points Mudgie has made before.
Turning to pubs, it would seem pretty damn obvious, that minimum pricing will not save a single pub. I'm all for saving pubs though and like CAMRA, who support minimum pricing, I believe the pub is the most appropriate place to drink alcohol responsibly, but is this really the way to go about it? Maybe if minimum pricing had been considered long ago, before the gap got out of hand, a case for minimum pricing could be made, but now it just seems the wrong policy at the wrong time. A case for supporting a ban on below cost selling of alcohol could certainly be made and could probably be supported, but minimum pricing is a dangerous Trojan Horse and support for it seems to place CAMRA a little too close to the anti alcohol camp, a place where surely an organisation dedicated to beer drinking ought not to be?
The prohibitionists already have a foot in the door and minimum pricing wedges it open further. It is no means certain that it will be to the advantage of pub drinkers and pubs as Mudgie points out. CAMRA as an organisation needs to think again.
One of the reasons given by CAMRA is to stop below cost selling, but that could be achieved through other means. Their document to the Scottish Government conflates, wrongly I believe, the issues of minimum pricing and below cost sales.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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