Council Considers Moronic Licensing Policy
Edinburgh council are considering an overhaul of alcohol licenses. Health campaigners want to prevent new pubs and shops from selling alcohol in “areas of over provision”. This would be unproductive and foolish.
A “crackdown” on alcohol sales in Edinburgh could be coming when the city’s licensing policy is overhauled later this month. Health campaigners are seeking a tougher approach by banning licenses for new pubs, supermarkets and off licenses, in many areas of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh has more licensed premises per person than Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, and its residents drink more than the Scottish average. The city’s licensing forum wants to add seven areas (including Tollcross, Old Town and Canongate) to the list of “areas of over-provision”. Grassmarket/Cowgate is already listed.
Proponents of the assault say that “over provision” of alcohol results in excess consumption. So-called “experts” have made the profound observation that there is a correlation between the number of alcohol retailers in an area and the amount people drink.
This is confusion of cause and effect. Alcohol supply does not drive demand. People (especially Scottish people) want alcohol therefore pubs and shops supply it. The reason there are more licenses in areas of higher consumption is because there is more of a market.
Crude regulations cannot change behaviour. Mike Bridgman, a licencing board member and SNP councillor, says; “If you say a shop can’t open people will just go to another street. Someone who has a drink or drug problem will go to where the supply is. Alcohol is available whatever. People will travel to get it.”
Similarly, the recent fetish of minimum pricing will also be a dismal failure. Making alcohol more expensive will not reduce consumption. For alcoholics, students and Scottish people, the price is irrelevant – they will buy what they want (a lot) regardless. All a price floor does is needlessly punish people, whilst reducing expenditure on other products.
Restricting licenses will also cause significant harm. Constraining a popular industry is very stupid. Stopping the establishment of new businesses (or at least making them less appealing) damages the city’s economy, the surrounding areas (which may need regeneration) and employment.
Furthermore, although regulators and puritans paint a consistently negative picture of “excessive” drinking, there are significant benefits too. Alcohol can encourage chest-beating by knuckle-draggers. However, it also loosens people up, promotes sex, and is fun. It is enjoyable and it enhances culture.
Regulation, no matter how well intended, is always draconian. In some cases, it is a necessary evil. In this case, it will achieve absolutely nothing whilst needlessly increasing interference in business and people’s lives.