Friday, 3 September 2010

Little Brown Jug - alcohol and taxation

The Scottish Parliament is to vote on a minimum unit price for alcoholic drinks; this policy is put forward by the SNP but, it appears, unlikely it will be passed. The UK government is looking at legislating for some kind of minimum price. The targets in both these cases are binge drinking and targeting cheap strong drinks that fuel it.

There is no doubt that alcohol can be dangerous; that it is dangerous in some hands. So are cars, so are social networking, gaming and computers. Rock climbing and rugby can be dangerous. However, rock climbing and rugby are exciting and can be healthy. Social networking et al are fun. Alcohol can contribute to relaxation and good company.

Recent figures show that consumption of alcohol is falling in this country and that, in fact, we drink below the EU average. If our consumption is falling and our population is growing then the consumption per head must be falling even more. Why? It may be the recession, it may be that messages about safe limits are getting through.

It’s also clear that the number of pubs (mostly decent, friendly places to get together) are closing at an enormous rate. I live in the middle of Birmingham and it’s happening in the city; I often visit small towns and villages and it’s happening there, too.

Increasingly politicians legislate on what seems to be a good idea, policies based with one eye on the media reporting and another on a superficial and inadequate understanding of the complexities of a situation. Well meaning policies aren’t good enough.

Let’s go for legislation in the round.

On a more promising note, the UK ale market is increasing with the number of breweries now at its highest sicne 1940. As a beer drinker I can recommend the product of many (not all) of the new micro-breweries. Real ale is delicious; I remember once hearing a French wine expert contemplating the number of experts on wine in the UK. ‘Why do the British want to spend so much time considering wine’ he asked, ‘when they have so many wonderful beers?’

I agree with that.


  1. The National trust, on the whole, does a great job of protecting some of our most amazing buildings of cultural and historic importance. The rate at which some of our pubs are closing, especially in some of our towns and villages,is now quite alarming. Maybe the time has come for the trust to consider expanding its role to include these treasures of English tradition and heritage?

  2. Perhaps we should write to them and ask them? Or maybe it would have to be around a particular building. But some of the pubs I've seen closed in small towns and villages are splendid buildings - all to become houses and flats, perhaps. Sad. On the other hand, perhaps it needs a stronger campaign for real ale.