Alcohol Ban for Under-21s on the Anvil in Scotland

by Rajashri on Sep 4 2008 1:42 PM

The Scottish government is considering banning alcohol sales to under-21s to make "the streets safer and communities better" and counter mounting drinking problems, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said Wednesday.

The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) told BBC Radio his country had a "serious problem" with alcohol misuse, which costs Scotland about 2.25 billion pounds a year in lost productivity and medical bills.

The proposal was included in the government's legislative agenda for the next year, which Salmond billed as an attempt to build a strong Scotland ahead of the SNP's promised referendum on Scottish independence in 2010.

"There should be no limits to our ambitions for this nation. Just as there should be no limit to what we can contribute globally," he told the Scottish parliament.

Power to decide taxation, health and education policy was devolved from the London government to Scotland in 1998. But the SNP, which took over from the Labour administration following May 2007 elections, is committed to full independence.

Salmond said the proposals to raise the legal age for drinking from 18 to 21, which were still out for consultation, came about after two trials in Scotland which led to a dramatic reduction in police call-outs at weekends.

"The practical evidence is that restriction, that protection for young people actually helps reduce violent incidents, protects people and makes the streets safer and communities better," he told BBC Radio ahead of the speech.

Alcohol-related deaths have more than doubled in Scotland in the last 15 years, while 40 percent of 15-year-olds and 15 percent of 13-year-olds surveyed by the government said they had drunk alcohol in the previous week.

The government is also considering minimum pricing of alcoholic drinks, as well as possible restrictions on the display of tobacco products in shops.

Salmond also announced plans to scrap council tax, a widely unpopular levy based on the value of a property, in favour of a local tax based on income.

He told parliament the current system was "regressive" and "unfair" and said the measure would save the average family up to 535 pounds a year.