Challenging over-supply of alcohol

Licensing Board member, Chas Booth, says it’s time to balance the capital’s relationship with alcohol.

Edinburgh has a complicated relationship with alcohol. On one hand, whisky is our national drink and distilling and brewing part of our economy.

But on the other hand, excessive consumption of alcohol puts pressure on our health and police services. Alcohol related harm in Edinburgh costs more than £221 million per year, equivalent to £455 per person.

So we need to rebalance our relationship with booze. That doesn’t mean we have to become teetotal, or declare areas of the city to be ‘dry’. But we need to listen to experts from the NHS and the police to limit the harm from excessive alcohol consumption.

The message from experts is clear: after price, availability of alcohol is the most important factor affecting consumption. Edinburgh’s Licensing Board makes decisions on new applications to sell drink. We’re also required to publish a ‘statement of policy’ each year which outlines how those decisions will be made. And I’m delighted it now seems likely the Edinburgh board will adopt a robust approach which is based on evidence from NHS Lothian and other professionals.

This doesn’t mean we’re going to offer blanket refusals to new licence applications. But in those areas with the highest alcohol-related crime and health problems, and that already have higher than average provision of licensed premises, any new licence applicant will be expected to present convincing evidence that their licence will not contribute to ‘overprovision’.

So clear policy and expert evidence will have played a part in rebalancing the Capital’s relationship with booze.

This blog was first published by Edinburgh Evening News on 6 November 2013