By LUCY GRUNDON
YOUNG people in Shetland debated the Scottish government’s proposals to increase the legal age for buying alcohol from supermarkets and off-licenses from 18 to 21 at a meeting last week.
A group of 69 aged between 11 and 18 from across Shetland met at a general meeting of Youth Voice in Sound Public Hall. Youth Voice’s aim is to increase the participation of young people in decisions both locally and nationally and give them the chance to voice their views. At each meeting, the representatives present are asked their opinions on a topical issue.
The meeting heard that the SNP claims alcohol has become too readily available, and its abuse encouraged by wildly reduced prices, which they also intend to raise. Alcohol may be cheap, but is it acceptable to assign everyone between the ages of 18 and 20 with the reputation of being incapable of drinking responsibly and to remove a right to which they have already been entitled?
No, is the Scottish Youth Parliament’s firm response. The youth wing of the SNP has also objected to this proposal, which is why it was felt by the organisers of the Youth Voice meeting that this subject should be tackled by other people who will be directly affected. After several icebreaker activities to familiarise everyone, Jenny Gilmour, who is the young persons alcohol worker in Shetland and member of Community Alcohol and Drugs Services Shetland (CADSS), revealed the statistics of an alcohol-based survey carried out in Shetland’s secondary schools.
The fact that in late 2007, 50 per cent of S1 boys and 48 per cent of S1 girls in Shetland, aged 11-12 years old, claimed to drink alcohol regularly was undeniably shocking. This is a considerable rise from a 2002 survey, where 19 per cent of boys and 25 per cent of girls aged 13 claimed to drink alcohol regularly. This shows that underage drinkers are obtaining alcohol through a consistent source regardless of the law, and it was later brought up that effort would possibly be better placed in enforcing current legislation rather than changing it.
MSYP Ryan Smith and MSP Tavish Scott arrived to tackle these questions from their separate viewpoints. Both guests were greeted with great enthusiasm from the crowd and both introduced themselves and their work before participating in a lively question and answer session.
A special thanks to the partner agencies that supported the event including Youth Services, Shetland Youth Information Services, The Health Board, COPE and all schools and youth clubs throughout Shetland.