A health official has defended the findings of a report into alcohol that suggested a daytime ban on off sales, following criticism from a leading licensing expert.
Public health principal at NHS Shetland, Elizabeth Robinson, was one of the people behind an investigation into the over-provision of drink.
Her report, which was highlighted by The Shetland Times almost a month ago, recommended sales of alcohol in off-licenses or supermarkets should not commence until the late afternoon or evening. That idea has now been scrutinised in the national press.
Around three-quarters of alcohol sales across Scotland are made in supermarkets or off-licenses. Ms Robinson’s comments come weeks after the Scottish government won its legal battle to introduce alcohol minimum pricing in Scotland after the Court of Session rejected an objection raised by the drinks industry.
The findings of the report are due to go before Shetland Islands Council’s licensing board after the council elections are held next year.
Now, Ms Robinson has dismissed claims by a former Scottish government adviser on licensing legislation, that the recommendations risk simply leading to people stockpiling drink.
Jack Cummins told a national newspaper that NHS Shetland was in danger of damaging its credibility over the plans. He said it was unclear whether the report recognised the right of licensing boards to regulate the size and location of alcohol displays in shops.
Mr Cummins is quoted in The Herald newspaper as stating it was tempting to dismiss the proposals as coming from “the Planet Zorg”.
He added there was a “real risk” that proposals “smacking of zealotry” would hinder NHS attempts to have any say in licensing legislation.
“They may have been drinking the night before and they can get up in the morning and go straight out and buy alcohol again.” ELIZABETH ROBINSON
Ms Robinson told this newspaper: “There was work done in Aberdeen, with people who have been dependent on alcohol and are recovering from that.
“They said at the moment off-licenses are open from 10 o’clock in the morning. They may have been drinking the night before and they can get up in the morning and go straight out and buy alcohol again.
“They’d find it really helpful if places didn’t open till later on so at least they could get the morning free, and start putting some of their recovery plans in place.
“That was the rationale for saying would that be a possibility. I suppose we’re just saying it’s one of a number of possibilities and would it be possible for the licensing board to consider that.”
She dismissed claims that stockpiling would become a problem for people.
“On the whole people who are really dependent on alcohol haven’t got enough money to be stockpiling alcohol.
“I also think as part of the whole discussion about alcohol we should be talking about the amount people are allowed to buy as well.
“First he [Mr Cummins] is saying that’s in law already and then he’s saying it’s a plan from Planet Zorg.
“He says the NHS is in danger of damaging its credibility, but actually it’s our job. The licensing board asked us to write a report on over-provision of alcohol in Shetland, so we did that.”
She said health officials were “obviously interested” in reducing harm from alcohol.
“We all know people who have suffered, or struggled, or relationships have broken down, and are really ill because of their alcohol use, and those are the people we want to help.”