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Over 21 alcohol pilot
A pilot scheme in central Scotland has revealed more evidence that an over-21s off-sales policy could help cut crime and antisocial behaviour if extended nationwide.
On the eve of the consultation on tackling alcohol misuse closing, Public Health Minister Shona Robison visited Stenhousemuir to learn more about the 'Stop the Supply' project, which has been operating in the Central Scotland police force area.
Operating since April in Larbert and Stenhousemuir, the project has seen calls to police about anti-social behaviour fall by 40 per cent. Between April and June, compared to the corresponding period last year, breaches of the peace also fell by nearly 40 per cent, minor assaults by nearly 30 per cent and serious assaults by 60 per cent.
Police said the success of the voluntary project had been down to the full support of retailers in the towns, who have enthusiastically backed the move to restrict sales to over-21s at key times.
Similar schemes in Armadale, West Lothian and Cupar, Fife, have also seen significant cuts in calls to police and anti-social offences recorded.
Ms Robison said:
"The dramatic results from Stop the Supply show what can be achieved when communities take bold steps to tackle alcohol misuse among young people.
"While the majority of our young people are responsible and don't misuse alcohol, there is a significant minority who cause a disproportionate amount of crime and anti-social behaviour, often under the influence of alcohol. We cannot ignore that.
"The Scottish Government has spent the last few months consulting on our radical plans to tackle alcohol misuse, which include a minimum price for a unit of alcohol, raising the off-sales purchase age to 21, ending irresponsible promotions and a social responsibility fee for some retailers.
"Taken together, we believe these measures could help bring about the long-term cultural shift needed to rebalance Scotland's relationship with alcohol.
"As a society, we're consuming more and more alcohol and the 'clear-up' costs across society are estimated at £2.25 billion per year.
"We believe that Government has a responsibility to show leadership and take the action needed to stop Scotland suffering a huge collective hangover in decades to come."
Chief Inspector Bob Beaton from Central Scotland Police led the implementation of the strategy in partnership with local retailers. He said:
"We introduced this initiative on April 1 as we believed there was a direct link between youths consuming alcohol and committing antisocial behaviour offences.
"Stop the Supply is an important part of our strategy to this type of behaviour and youth disorder. We are pleased that this scheme is being recognised for the success it truly is.
"Calls to relating to complaints of anti-social behaviour and youth disorder have nearly halved during weekends which is welcome news to the communities affected.
"Officers, community wardens and off-licences have worked closely together during this pilot initiative. The scheme has also included test-purchasing, bottle marking, surveillance and a ring-round initiative for off-licences."
Lillian Forsyth, who runs one of the Stenhousemuir shops taking part in the pilot with her husband, Gordon, said:
"I think it's been a big success - thanks to the local shops, police and councillors working together. It hasn't been an inconvenience to us and we haven't noticed a drop in sales, so I would say it's been a positive step. There's been a marked drop in the number of kids hanging around on the streets.
"With the 18 age limit it can be very hard to tell a young person's age, whereas at 21 they tend to look more grown up. They're also more sensible and less likely to be buying alcohol for underage people."
The Scottish Government's consultation on alcohol misuse closes on September 9, 2008.