Scotland Are Tackling Alcohol Abuse, And It’s Working

Ben Brooks is back to give us another update on his travels as he experiences different types of bartending. It’s all very exciting, he’s like a bloody nomad bartender. This time he shares his thoughts from our neighbours up north as he explains how they’ve taken steps to sorting out their drinking culture.

I’ve just moved up to sunny Edinburgh and got myself a job behind a Christmas festival bar. Happy days. In doing so I’ve learnt more about drinking health, drinking education and social caring in two hours than I did in seven years back in England.

There has been a total reform in Scotland in regards to the sale of alcohol. When you get employed on a bar it is mandatory to have a two hour class on the legality of buying and selling alcohol in Scotland. This started in 2009 and has seen Scotland really turn things around. By introducing this education to personnel of its bars, clubs and restaurants it has reduced its yearly death rate through alcohol use from 1500 people per year to 1100.

Overall the statistics show various deficits but chronic liver cirrhosis in Scotland has been on the decrease year by year since 2009. There are anomalies in the statistics, but this is mostly in people over the age of 55, i.e. people who have been binge drinking for years and contracted an alcohol related disease. I’m saying these statistics to reinforce a point, Scotland cannot be shunned or dismissed for what they’ve created here because it is a truly great achievement and has been very well executed.

Where did this idea stem from? An idea to educate the people selling booze to increase the health of a nation. Australia originally had to deal with this problem of alcohol epidemia and went through several stages of how to deal with it. They tried to excessively tax alcohol and raised all sorts of costs to try to alleviate the problem but that didn’t work. In the end they introduced a law, in which every person behind a bar or working in an off-license had to have a personal license. This is where everything changed and it significantly improved quality of life. Scotland saw this example and instead of hammering the price of booze they decided to educate a nation…  And it’s working.

The test they administer to everyone selling alcohol educates about the consequences of selling alcohol unlawfully. £5000 and jail time for selling to underage drinkers, £1000 to selling to people who are drunk, all personal fines to the person passing that drink over the counter, not to mention the same going for the people receiving the drink. They’ve also reinforced this by employing many more people throughout the country to test and check on every bar.

Not only has Scotland gone hard on the education of bartenders but they have also introduced several laws that have made the bar scene thrive, outlawing happy hours and offers that encourage binge drinking. This filters out the dross and allows the cream to rise, Edinburgh itself boast some of the greatest bars in the world and there is not a student bar in sight. This may come as a shock to a lot of booze hounds back in England but what these laws have created is a wonderful environment for the lovers of drink, not the lovers of getting drunk. It has instilled a great culture of excellent booze, well thought out cocktails and wonderful bars.

As a lesson what can we take from this? Even if we step away from the alcohol industry. Relative education is everything, if the people selling know more about their product, then it helps everybody. There are no misinformed sales and as a result is, everyone comes out happier.

The government have also done something truly wonderful here, even if they have done it for the wrong reasons.They made a decision to care about people’s health. Don’t get me wrong, they have made this decision because it will save millions of pounds that binge drinking costs the economy. I imagine that was their main incentive, but let’s not take credit away from the Scottish government because they have thought this one through and in the long run it will benefit everyone.

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