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THE latest update of the research on the minimum price of alcohol (MPA) confirms that this token attempt to reduce harmful drinking has had very little effect ("Scottish ministers to consider new alcohol price hike after policy review", May 8). Alcohol Focus Scotland and many others want to push up the MPA from 50p to 65p. This approach is failing because there is no way of stopping the alcohol industry from creating as many new drinks as it likes to satisfy every palate and budget. Supermarkets illustrate my point, as we now have four to six aisles of alcoholic drinks where there used to be two.
Politicians struggle to reduce deaths from illicit drugs, which continue to rise for the simple reason that the drug barons have created hundreds of new drugs to meet every need; the alcohol industry has done exactly the same thing. It has created hundreds of new alcoholic drinks, to meet every taste bud and the budget of adults and children. More than 300 new gins, all sorts of pre-mixed drinks and cocktails in cans, around 100 alcopops, new vodkas, hundreds of special beers and wines flood the market every month.
Many people believe that if we legalised illicit drugs we could control their quality and their safety. History tells a different story, because tobacco and alcohol have been legalised for three centuries, during which the damage to public health has escalated. Smoking and alcohol have killed billions more of us than illicit drugs.
When successfully legislating to reduce smoking Scottish politicians did not consult the global tobacco industry, because they knew it would have done everything it could to prevent any loss of business and profit. So why, I wonder, has the alcohol industry been sitting at the table with Scottish politicians for decades, pretending to find solutions to alcohol dependency? Listening in on these discussions has I believe allowed that industry to keep ahead of the game and constantly undermine any legislation that would harm its profits. The Scottish Whisky Association took the Scottish Government to court and successfully prevented for years the minimum price of alcohol legislation coming into law.
Minimum pricing has given the alcohol industry around £130 million a year in extra income, which is clear profit, as they are selling the same drinks for more, without it costing them anything. As the cost of alcohol rises the poorest drinkers get priced out of the market, so they resort to buying the now-cheaper illicit drugs.
There is no political will to seriously reduce alcohol consumption as it is a great source of revenue for our governments. Politicians should consider how to get the alcohol industry to contribute towards the harm they are doing by diverting the unearned profit they are collecting from MPU to help fund drug and alcohol recovery programmes.
Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.
ONE-SIDED VIEW OF SLAVERY
NEIL Mackay rightly criticises the lack of knowledge of most Scots with Scotland’s role in the wicked slave trade ("‘My family were owned as slaves by Scots. It’s time this nation faced up to its history’", May 8). However, for my generation it was not just an ignorance of the brutal realities of slavery but an ignorance of the history of our own country that was the problem. Having studied history at school and completed courses in British History Honours 1 and 2 at the University of Edinburgh I knew nothing about the Darien Scheme, the Act of Union, the Scottish Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions nor the achievements of the Scottish Enlightenment. It took an English author, John Prebble, to begin the task of educating me into something of Scotland’s past. Prebble was pilloried at the time by the Scottish academic establishment but his books such as Glencoe were widely read and proved to be very popular.
As reported in the article, Henry Dundas has been severely criticised both by Sir Geoff Palmer and by the City of Edinburgh Council, which has placed a condemnatory plaque beside his monument in St Andrew Square. There can be no doubt that Henry Dundas was a scoundrel. He was a heavy drinker, a womaniser and a man who shamelessly used his considerable powers of patronage to help his friends, particularly fellow Scots. However, to continue to place all of the blame on Dundas for the delay in the abolition of the slave trade is I think unfair and ignores the reality of the tumultuous years of the early 1790s. Those attacking Dundas have to address the question as to how a slave-supporting Parliament at that time was ever going to vote for abolition? Britain was then at war with Revolutionary France and was faced with the real prospect of invasion. Furthermore, the British Establishment was terrified that the success of the French Revolution might inspire similar uprisings in the UK. The country was in turmoil and it fell to Dundas to try to restore order at home and to meet the French threat.
A previous attempt to pass a motion for abolition had been very heavily defeated. It would take years for the force of the moral argument against the vile trade to have any chance of success. During the debate in 1792 Dundas proposed a gradual path to abolition stating that "my opinion has been always against the slave trade". This gradual approach succeeded in 1807.
I feel that there is a risk that we are being presented with a very one-sided view on the issue of slavery. It is worth remembering that the vast majority of these unfortunate Africans were captured and sold to the slavers by their fellow Africans. Finally, we must also remember that during the centuries in question at least one million white Europeans were captured and sold in the slave markets of North Africa. Their plight is graphically described by Giles Milton in his book White Gold.
Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.
FUNICULAR NEEDS BETTER ANALYSIS
MARTIN Williams' report on whether to repair the funicular on Cairn Gorm or scrap it ("Call for inquiry into costs for delayed Cairngorm railway", May 1) explores an issue that much needs it. That the decision to build the funicular is a financial disaster is now beyond dispute – one of a series of bad decisions by HIE on development on the mountain. Whether to repair or remove is based simply on which would be the lesser financial disaster and cost to the taxpayer.
However, the analysis described by Mr Williams seems basically flawed. He reports that costs of urgent repairs have already soared from £14.8 to £26.75 million and the history of these costs strongly indicates they will rise further. Removal is currently estimated at £16.92m as an alternative, but it is not an alternative. Like all technology it ages and will eventually have to be removed. Hence it is only an alternative if you decide to send the bill for removal to the next generation – a practice that underlies much of our current environmental crisis.
Operating costs over the next 30 years he states are estimated at £153.7m set against an income of £77.2m, giving a loss of £73.09m. However, that is set against an economic benefit “to the country” of £146.22m. Now where does that figure come from? The chief intended economic beneficiary is the Speyside tourist industry, which had prospered during the years since the funicular ceased to operate. A survey of 40 local tourist businesses revealed that a trip up Cairn Gorm did not rate greatly among local attractions.
More importantly, what would be the financial benefit to the country if the same money was spent aiding the development of potentially profitable businesses around the Highlands and Islands and more widely instead of pouring it down a bottomless financial pit on Cairn Gorm, especially at a time of rocketing inflation and rising cost of living? There is no figure for that but it should be a key figure in assessment of options.
It is time for a decision based on better analysis than that offered.
R Drennan Watson, Alford.
INDYREF 2 MUST BE DELIVERED
ALISTER Jack, nominally the Secretary of State for Scotland, is on record as saying that there is no appetite for Indyref2, and that the Scottish Government should not proceed with that referendum. This shows Mr Jack, not for the first time, thinking that deflection, distraction and diversion is the way to get folks to forget (or disregard) manifesto promises – both of his own party in Westminster, and now (should Mr Jack get his way) of the SNP/Scottish Greens in Holyrood.
Is Mr Jack suggesting that, because his own party in Westminster consider it OK to ditch manifesto promises, that the SNP/Greens Scottish Government should follow that example?
As recently as the 2019 General Election, the Westminster Tories – backed by Mr Jack – promised to retain the pensions triple lock, but then promptly ditched the average earnings part when it looked like giving pensioners a reasonably decent (in percentage terms) rise on what's already a very poor state pension.
Pensioners have been hit by a double whammy of ditched Tory/Westminster election promises, which leaves current pensioners poorer, and depresses the starting base for all future pensioners. Those future pensioners, of course, are already suffering the same cost of living increases brought on, largely, by Mr Jack's party of government's mismanagement of Brexit; and of energy companies being allowed – by that same Government – to increase the cap on prices by 54% whilst raking in massive profits.
So no, Mr Jack, the Scottish Government does not need any lessons on behaviour from your party in Westminster. And the people of Scotland expect the Scottish Government to deliver its manifesto pledges – including holding Indyref2 within this parliamentary term.
Ian Waugh, Dumfries & Galloway Indy Hub, Dumfries.
INTEGRITY COMES TO THE FORE
WHILE the Tory counter-attack on Sir Keir Starmer very nearly succeeded by having him floundering and looking suspect, at last he rose to the occasion by declaring that he would resign if issued a fixed penalty notice for the pre-arranged meal in Durham. Hypocrisy was the charge being levelled at him by his opponents, but that particular fox has now been shot for good and glory.
Now the spotlight is back upon the Prime Minister for the performance he put on over the part he played in Partygate with his initial denials and his corroborated presence at several of the celebrations. Integrity and honour have now come to the fore, drawing a distinct line in the sand between the PM and his opposite number.
Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.