Thursday, 3 December 2009

An Open Letter to Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP

Dear Ms Somerville MSP,

Recently, the Scottish Conservatives used their debating time to oppose the minimum pricing of alcohol in the Scottish Parliament.

I listened to the debate with interest and I picked up at the mention of my name when you said the following:

"Even some Tories have seen the light, from Boris Johnson—it is not often that I quote him in a speech—to Councillor Jim Millar, chairman of the Angus licensing board, who recently said:

"I was amazed at how much alcohol ten pounds bought. This is the type of drink that seems to be favoured by underage drinkers which is a contributory factor in the anti social behaviour that is making the lives of so many people a misery."

He went on to say:

"The main cause of complaints to us as councillors continues to be young people indulging in anti social behaviour which is invariably fuelled by alcohol that can be bought for next to nothing. This is a situation that has to be brought under control".

I could not agree more with Councillor Millar on that."


Whilst I am flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as Boris Johnson, and with reference to your last remark, it’s always nice to encounter a fan, I must say that to take something I have said completely out of context and infer that it shows support for your own position is either charmingly naive or disturbingly disingenuous. Personally, I’d opt for the latter.

I have clearly stated my opposition to your Government’s minimum pricing policy on more occasions than I care to recall. Here are two pertinent examples:

“I don't believe it is prices or age limits that need to be raised. I think it is our awareness of alcohol and its effects that needs to raised and our attitude towards it that needs changed. There is no quick solution, and certainly no simple one.”

“Personally, I'm concerned that the extra cost of buying drink will be taken from other household budgets. In the case of those with modest incomes, most likely food or heating.”

You will appreciate I’m sure, if you were not aware already, that I do not, in any way support your Government’s proposals on this, and a wide variety of other matters, and I would be grateful if you refrained from misrepresenting my views in future.

Yours sincerely,


Cllr Jim Millar

4 comments:

Jim said...

Interesting that you "think it is our awareness of alcohol and its effects that needs to raised and our attitude towards it that needs changed."

That is precisely what I think and yet, I see supermarkets peddling alcopops and own brand vodkas at pocket money prices as if it was some inconsequential thirst quencher and advertised as if the only side effect was ever lasting happiness.

Surely by making a minimum price per unit of alcohol, we are absolutely making the statement that as a country we no longer want alcohol to be viewed as inconsequential but that it's something addictive & dangerous. As part of a package of measures to raise awareness, preventing it being sold like that is surely a good thing.

I don't think anyone believes that minimum pricing is a cure for drinkers already down the path to alcoholism, but if it makes some stop and think about where they are spending their money before it becomes a bigger, less controllable issue, that has to be a good thing.

So, when I first read your quotes I thought "Good for Jim Millar".

Are you now saying that they are out of context and you don't think too much alcohol can be bought for 10 pounds? Do you not think that it's the type of "drink that seems to be favoured by underage drinkers which is a contributory factor in the anti social behaviour that is making the lives of so many people a misery."

Calum Cashley said...

Jim,

I hope you've sent Shirley-Anne this letter (email would be fine) and that you'll publish her response.

Your contribution to the debate is grand, and I hope you're encouraging other members of your party to contribute (and listen).

Change, stay as we are, ignore it, whatever we do, it should be a matter of debate, listening to people with an interest, and making better legislation for Scotland.

CC

Jim said...

Jim,

Thanks for your comment. Having thought about this, I'd like to do a post in the next couple of days which will answer your questions fully.

Best

Jim

Jim said...

Hi Calum,

Haven't seen you round Parly for a while, but then I'm not there too often myself these day.

I didn't sent it Shirley-Anne, given she seems familiar enough with my previous statements.

I will be happy to publish any response she cares to make, whatever it says.

Having said that, to use the quotes she did, against a backdrop of my sustained opposition to the policy is, in my view, disingenuous to the point of duplicity and weakens her argument rather than strengthens it.

Best

Jim