There is no doubt that Scotland has a major problem regarding its relationship with alcohol; health statistics convey a serious situation in regard to alcohol-induced illnesses and we are all too aware of the mindless anti-social behaviour witnessed in our town and city streets at weekends, again fuelled by alcohol consumption.
While the Government is to be applauded for attempting to deal with the issues, we believe it has hit the wrong target with punitive and discriminatory measures against retailers and has missed an opportunity to identify early intervention and education as the best way forward.
Whether the age for purchasing alcohol is 18 or 21, youngsters so-minded will be able to procure the alcohol they want through elder siblings or other adults buying on their behalf; this proxy purchasing is prevalent, although very difficult to detect and eliminate. Arguably, the increase to 21 will make alcohol even more attractive to those youngsters who want to get "off their faces" through peer pressure in the main.
If the problem is a cultural one, then the answer must lie with education at an early stage in order to advise children about the dangers of alcohol in terms of health and anti-social behaviour and how it should be handled responsibly. This message should be updated over a number of years as part of the education curriculum, involving external experts as well as the police and other enforcement authorities. This approach, coupled with sensible enforcement measures, would have been more appropriate from a Scottish Government keen to deal with the problems they face.
Unfortunately, politics usually generate a knee-jerk reaction rather than a long-term solution.
John Drummond, chief executive, Scottish Grocers Federation, Queensferry Road, Edinburgh.