In June 2008 the Scottish Government published ' Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Discussion Paper on Our Strategic Approach' setting out its strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse. Hexagon Research and Consulting and Adrian Colwell Associates were commissioned by the Scottish Government to independently analyse and summarise the responses to this discussion paper.
- A total of 472 written responses to the discussion paper were submitted to the Scottish Government. This included 259 responses from individuals, 207 responses from organisations and six combined or group responses.
- There was support, particularly from organisations, for the broad strategic approach and most of the proposals outlined in the discussion paper. Many respondents, including some organisations critical of certain proposals, acknowledged that the proposals were bold and put Scotland at the leading edge of tackling alcohol misuse.
- Although the discussion paper sought views on how a number of the proposals should be implemented, the majority of respondents tended to comment on the principle of whether these proposals should be introduced in the first place.
- A clear majority of individual respondents were in favour of proposals to end irresponsible promotions and below-cost selling (55% fully or partly in favour) and to increase the age of checkout staff (74% in favour). Views were more evenly split on the principle of introducing minimum retail pricing (49% in favour; 43% against) and a 'social responsibility fee' (48% in favour; 44% against).
- However, a significant majority of individuals were opposed to increasing the minimum legal age for off-sales purchases to 21 (62% against; 38% in favour) and separate checkouts for alcohol (64% against; 36% in favour). A small majority were against proposals to further restrict promotional material in licensed premises (52% opposed; 48% in favour).
- A large majority of organisational respondents were in favour of the proposals to end irresponsible promotions and below-cost selling (73% fully or partly in favour); minimum retail pricing (65% in favour; 23% against); and to increase the age of checkout staff (72% in favour; 23% opposed). A majority also supported the principle of introducing a social responsibility fee (54% in favour; 35% against) and further restrictions on promotional material in licensed premises (56% in favour; 37% opposed). Views were evenly split on proposals for separate checkouts for alcohol sales (47% in favour; 50% against). A large majority of organisations were opposed to increasing the minimum legal age for off-sales purchases to 21 (63% against; 27% in favour).
- There was a clear divergence in views of organisations in the health and local government sectors compared to those in the alcohol trade and business sector. Health and local government organisations were generally strongly in favour of the proposals in the discussion paper (with the exception of increasing the minimum age for off-sales purchase), while the trade and business sector was opposed to all the proposals other than increasing the minimum age of checkout staff).
In June 2008 the Scottish Government published a discussion paper setting out its strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse: ' Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Discussion Paper on Our Strategic Approach'. This set out key actions already underway; existing commitments for action; and a number of new proposals. It sought views on ten questions within the context of seven themes:
- further action to end irresponsible promotion and below-cost selling of alcoholic drinks in licensed premises;
- minimum retail pricing of alcohol;
- what particular information parents would find helpful in relation to alcohol;
- raising the minimum age for off-sales purchases to 21;
- the introduction of a 'social responsibility fee' applied to some alcohol retailers to offset the costs of dealing with the consequences of alcohol misuse;
- further restrictions on promotional material in licensed premises; and,
- the desirability of separate checkouts for alcohol sales.
In addition, the Scottish Government organised a Summit on Underage Drinking to provide an opportunity for young people and professionals working with young people to contribute their views. It also commissioned Young Scot to carry out a survey of young people and a series of focus groups to gauge young people's views on the strategic approach proposed in the discussion paper.
Hexagon Research and Consulting and Adrian Colwell Associates were commissioned to undertake an analysis of written responses to the discussion paper and to report on the outcomes of the Summit on Underage Drinking.
This report has been based on a quantitative analysis of responses to the questions posed in the discussion paper along with a qualitative analysis of supplementary comments and views expressed by respondents.
The results of the consultation exercise and feedback from the Summit on Underage Drinking, the Young Scot survey will be used to inform the Scottish Government's strategic approach to alcohol misuse and any legislation that would be necessary to take forward elements of the strategy.
Analysis of Respondents
A total of 472 written responses to the discussion paper were submitted to the Scottish Government. This included 259 responses from individuals, 207 responses from organisations and six combined or group responses. In addition, Ministers received 53 items of correspondence on the issue whilst the consultation was ongoing.
All individual and organisational responses have been considered in the analysis but in order to provide comparative information about the views of key sectors, three main groupings of organisations were identified: health promotion and addictions group; alcohol trade and business sector organisations; and local government bodies and community planning partners. These three groupings included 161 (78%) of the 207 organisations that responded to the consultation In addition, responses were received from 46 'other' organisations, including national agencies and forums, youth organisations, voluntary groups and charities.
While the discussion paper sought views on how a number of proposals should be implemented - for instance, minimum retail pricing and a social responsibility fee - the majority of respondents commented on the principle of these proposals rather than on the detail.
Ending irresponsible promotion and below-cost selling of alcohol
A majority of individual respondents who expressed a view were in favour of the principle of ending irresponsible promotions and below-cost selling (43%) or expressed support for at least one of the measures included in the discussion paper (11%), whilst a significant minority (38%) expressed opposition to these proposals.
Overall, two thirds of organisations (66%) that responded to this question supported the principle of restricting promotions and preventing the sale of alcohol as a loss-leader. A further 7% supported at least one of the three measures presented in the discussion paper. Almost one in five (19%) of organisations were opposed to these proposals. Respondents from the health and local government sectors were overwhelmingly in favour (93% and 82% respectively), but 56% of trade and business organisations were opposed.
Minimum retail pricing
There was no consensus amongst individual respondents on the principle of introducing minimum retail pricing, with 49% in favour and 43% opposed. Two thirds (65%) of organisations were in favour, while just under a quarter (23%) were opposed. Whilst 90% of health organisations and 84% of local government bodies supported the principle, 61% of trade and business sector organisations were opposed.
Those organisations that commented on the measures outlined in the discussion paper suggested that minimum prices should be based on alcoholic strength and should apply across both off and on-sales. Respondents in favour of the proposals generally supported the rationale put forward in the discussion paper; e.g. that the increasing affordability of alcohol is one of the main drivers in higher consumption and harm.
Reasons given by opponents of minimum retail pricing included minimum pricing being seen as a form of taxation, opposition to the Government setting prices, and the likely impact of increasing the price on 'responsible' drinkers and people on low incomes.
What information would parents find helpful in relation to alcohol?
The three most common suggestions made by respondents were:
- information and statistics about the harmful effects of alcohol misuse and / or the recommended guidelines for alcohol;
- parents should set a good example to children by drinking sensibly and / or that there should be a cultural shift promoting sensible drinking;
- education about alcohol and its potentially harmful effects should be part of the school curriculum.
A number of respondents, including professional associations and children's organisations, provided detailed suggestions and comments in response to this question.
Raising the minimum legal age for off-sales purchases to 21
A clear majority of individual and organisational respondents (62% and 63% respectively) expressed opposition to the proposal to raise the minimum legal age for off-sales purchases to 21. The health sector was the only sector with a majority of respondents in favour (52%). All nine youth organisations that responded to the discussion paper expressed strong opposition.
The most common reasons given for opposing this proposal included that: it 'demonises' all young people, not just those who drink irresponsibly; the minimum legal age for most things is either 16 or 18; it represents an erosion of civil liberties for young people; and, the emphasis should be on enforcing current laws and using proof of age schemes to reduce 'underage drinking'.
Social Responsibility Fee
Most respondents commented on whether a fee should be introduced rather than on the criteria on which it should be based on. There was no consensus amongst individuals with 48% in favour and 44% against the principle of introducing a social responsibility fee. However, large majorities of respondents were opposed to the proposals to apply a fee to Occasional Licences (64%) and 'other' premises (63%).
A small majority (54%) of organisations were in favour of a social responsibility fee. Health and local government sector bodies were strongly supportive (82% and 71% respectively) but a large majority of trade and business sector respondents were opposed to it (81%).
A majority of organisations that commented on the possible criteria for a fee as outlined in the discussion paper supported all premises being subject to paying the fee and the fee being based on alcohol sales or turnover.
Opposition to introducing a fee centred around views that: it will be 'just another tax'; it taxes the supplier of alcohol rather than those who are misusing it; and it could penalise all traders to compensate for a minority who allow the misuse of alcohol to take place.
Further restrictions on promotional material in licensed premises
A small majority (52%) of individual respondents opposed, in principle, further restrict promotional material in licensed premises. However, a majority of organisations (56%) supported the extension of regulations. Again, there was a clear divide in views between health and local government sectors (respectively 92% and 71% in favour) and the trade and business sector (86% against).
Respondents who supported this proposal suggested that: alcohol should be treated differently from other products; restricting promotional material would discourage impulse buying; and it would reduce the impact of advertising on young people. Two main reasons were given by opponents: further restricting promotional material would limit 'freedom of choice' and that it would have little impact in reducing alcohol misuse or binge drinking.
Separate checkouts for alcohol sales and minimum age of checkout staff
Almost two thirds (64%) of individual respondents opposed the proposal to introduce separate checkouts for alcohol sales. Views amongst organisations were more evenly split with 50% opposed and 47% in favour. While the majority of health (76%) and local government organisations (64%) were in favour, the trade and business sector was overwhelmingly opposed (92%).
Respondents opposed to separate checkouts were concerned that they would inconvenience shoppers, demonise alcohol without necessarily reducing consumption, and stigmatise responsible drinkers. Several organisations expressed doubt as to whether there is sufficient evidence to support separate checkouts. Those in favour of separate checkouts felt that they would act as an important indicator that alcohol can no longer be treated as an ordinary commodity by retailers or consumers.
Almost three-quarters of individual respondents and organisations were in favour of a minimum age of 18 for alcohol checkout staff. A large majority of health and local government sector organisations were in favour (93% and 73% respectively) whilst 50% of trade and business sector respondents were supportive.
Most respondents in favour agreed with the reasoning outlined in the discussion paper ( e.g. that younger checkout staff may find it more difficult to challenge customers who appear under 18). Some large retailers opposed the proposal pointing out that staff under the age of 18 can only sell alcohol if supervised by an older staff member.
Other responses and surveys
The Scottish Government's Summit on Underage Drinking provided a range of views and suggestions on why young people drink; the need for prevention and education to change attitudes to alcohol misuse and drunkenness; possible measures to reduce access to alcohol; and the role of parents and carers in educating young people about alcohol use.
A survey of around 500 young people by Young Scot on behalf of the Scottish Government found young people to be evenly divided on the proposal to raise the minimum purchase age in off-sales to 21 with 34% in favour and 36% opposed.
A number of other consultation exercises were carried out by stakeholders and submitted to the Scottish Government in response to the discussion paper, including by two MSPs, the Scottish Prison Service, East Renfrewshire Community Health Partnership, and Dundee Drug and Alcohol Action Team. Two public petitions were submitted to the Scottish Parliament urging the Scottish Government to drop or reconsider its proposal to raise the minimum purchase age in off-sales. Several organisations also provided details of surveys they conducted amongst their stakeholder groups or customers.
This document, along with "Analysis of Responses to the Consultation on the Scottish Government's Strategic Approach to Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol" (the full research report of the project) and further information about social and policy research commissioned and published on behalf of the Scottish Government, can be viewed on the Social Research website at: www.scotland.gov.uk/socialresearch . If you have any further queries about social research, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0131 244 7560.