Health official defends daytime alcohol ban proposal

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.

Beer bottles.
Beer bottles.

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


Elizabeth Robinson defended the NHS Shetland report which suggests alcohol sales before 5pm could be banned.
Elizabeth Robinson defended the NHS Shetland report which suggests alcohol sales before 5pm could be banned.

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.”


Add Your Comment
  • Sheenagh Pugh

    • November 8th, 2016 11:44

    I’m not entirely unsympathetic to attempts to solve what is a real problem, but not sure this has been thought through. Plenty of people who are not alcoholics shop at a particular time because it’s convenient, not because they want to glug the stuff then and there!. Taking into account Shetland’s bus service, if sales were not allowed in Lerwick until late afternoon, some folk couldn’t get the bus home. And what about tesco deliveries – would they too be forbidden in the morning if they happened to include drink?

  • John Tulloch

    • November 8th, 2016 12:53

    As an allergy sufferer, I was told in a chemist shop recently that, despite taking Actifed for over forty years and Piriton for 10 years, the government doesn’t consider me a fit person to be entrusted with buying one packet of each at the same time.

    Similarly, in the Co-op (Argyll) I was told I was not allowed to buy two packets of Aspirin/Paracetamol at the same time!

    I’m 62 years old – my children have been adults for over 20 years – and I don’t need NHS Scotland, Shetland or anywhere else, to tell me what I’m allowed to buy “for my own good”.

    With this backdrop, Mr Cummins’ comment about “zealotry from the Planet Zog” will resonate with many people.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • November 8th, 2016 15:11

    I agree with John and Mrs Burns. I have already been thwarted a few times when trying to buy a bottle of wine or four pack with my shopping in the morning since the latest sanctions were imposed. Will the pubs, cafes and restraints also be banned from selling alcohol until the evening? I don’t think it is the right way to go, the majority of folk can manage to get through the day without sinking a bottle of whisky but we will all be inconvenienced by this. Is Scotland going to become the ultimate nanny state? I would imagine the scenario where an alcoholic will simply try to stockpile booze then end up in an alcoholic coma due to the volume that has been stored. I think the fact that it is possible to buy a 3 litre bottle of cider for 3 pounds probably doesn’t help those poor souls addicted to alcohol – increasing the price of the cheaper paths to inebriation would be a better way to tackle the issue. Personally I enjoy visiting the latest beer shop to appear on the street, lets not let zealots take away our choice.

  • Johan Adamson

    • November 8th, 2016 16:06

    Im sure that alcohol is too available, but I am also sure that if you need it badly enough you will get it, or something worse. Im sure prohibition has never worked.

  • David Spence

    • November 8th, 2016 18:14

    If we put as much effort into prohibiting and restricting the sale alcohol as much as we do for smoking, surely this would be far better for society?

    Put in plain english, which causes greater damage to society as a whole, smoking or alcohol? I would hope most people would say alcohol.

    As a society, we seem to be obsessed with alcohol and couldn’t careless about the consequences as to the affects of alcohol has on peoples health, people, crime and society as a whole. Even all our soap drama’s are focused and based around a pub/alcohol.

    It seems rather evident commercial need and profit take greater priority than dealing with the impact alcohol has on…………….

    Whether making alcohol expensive (minimum price per unit) or prohibiting the times it can be sold surely must be regarded as a positive attribute in reducing the devastating consequences of such a drug?

  • Wendy Marshall

    • November 9th, 2016 9:38

    As someone who’s visit to Lerwick for shopping includes a ferry ride a four hour round trip I would find it virtually impossible to ever buy alcohol from any shop in Lerwick: Limit the sale of alcohol until after five in the afternoon or even later??? An ill conceived idea thought up by someone totally disconnected with the real world is probably the kindest comment I could make. My agreement is whole-heartedly with John Tulloch here and I am disgusted by the thought of a nanny state attempting to dictate on what I spend my money! At the end of the day each individual has responsibility for himself and what he chooses to put into his body.


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