East Renfrewshire divided by calls for specific sales ban

AS THE Extra has reported over recent weeks, calls for a sales ban on specific brands of alcohol have polarised the community.

The proposal by neighbourhood watch generated a mixed reaction from traders and shopkeepers, police officers and health officials.

Unequivocal though, are East Renfrewshire residents, 438 of whom responded to an online survey. Only two contributors to the neighbourhood watch survey supported no limit whatsoever.

Now the elected councillors of East Ren are being asked where they stand on the issue. The Extra found some are willing to trial the idea while others want the community to have more education on drinking.

Chair of East Ren's licensing board, Elaine Green, told The Extra: "We are about to launch a consultation paper for new legislation. I think we should all wait until that is complete before we move to any conclusions.

"The board is the proper channel for making decisions and we also have the licensing forum which seeks the views of the public on matters to be referred to the board."

Mearns South's Jim Swift said: "Restricted sales are possibly a good idea but there needs to be more test purchasing and also help from manufacturers for the communities.

"I think if removed, it'll be replaced by another low-cost, high alcohol alternative".

Mearns North Tony Buchanan added: "We need to teach responsible drinking. The type of drink doesn't matter if people are out to get drunk".

Barrhead's Eddie Phillips agreed and believes "it's not a particular type of booze that should be targeted — it's how the kids get hold of it that's the issue. ID cards would help".

Councillor Barbara Grant said: "When you ban something it makes it all the more attractive. Using education to teach people that drinking like this will not do them any good, is a better idea."

Licensing board member Charlie Gilbert told The Extra: "There needs to be a responsible approach from licensees in selling alcohol in the first place. A number are complying very well."

Labour's Ian McAlpine observed: "I think the majority of young people is well behaved. I don't know what the answer to the problem is. A voluntary code would be difficult — maybe (we need) more education about the dangers of drink."

More positive was councillor Stewart Miller, a member of the licensing board, who hailed "a great idea to tackle young people drinking".

But he cautioned: "A local embargo would only work if totally adhered to."

SNP's Alistair Carmichael added: "It sounds a good idea, but the licensing board also asks licensees to abide by voluntary rules. The new Licensing Scotland act in September should help".

Councillor Mary Montague said: "Restrictions, perhaps on a voluntary basis, could be a possible solution — and some responsible traders already operate them.

"This is really a matter for the licensing board and any decisions would have to be made by its members."

East Ren's health convener Douglas Yates welcomes "an interesting social experiment", adding: "it is clear there is a problem with anti-social behaviour".

Council leader Jim Fletcher added: "It would probably be difficult to persuade all the traders to ban brands, but I would welcome this measure.

"The problem is certain individuals buying drink for youngsters and this is what we need to tackle".

Deputy provost Betty Cunningham promises her support — but is "not sure if it's the solution.

"Some parents are doing the best they can. It needs the whole licensing industry, politicians and doctors to form a solution."

Busby's Alan Lafferty would also support the proposed ban but anticipates enforcement difficulties, adding: "We need to let young people understand alcohol abuse is lethal."

Gordon MacAskill, who stands for Netherlee and Williamwood has restated his position: "A voluntary traders' code I am in favour of, but I see no way of imposing a compulsory ruling."

Provost Alex Mackie who regards it as "a good idea from a community perspective" says he's "all for it".

Giffnock's Conservative Gordon Wallace added: "Glenville Avenue in my ward has a problem with teen drinking. Anything to combat it should be welcomed, but new rules would need to be policed".

Leslie Rosin,Conservative councillor for Mearns North , suggested: "I'd support the neighbourhood watch plans, but whether the idea would work or not is another matter entirely".

Stamperland's Ralph Robertson added: "There are no guarantees — but if we don't give it a chance we'll never know".

Despite repeated attempts The Extra was unable to contact councillor Danny Devlin for his take on the topic.