AS I SEE IT: TERRY MURDEN asks if minimum pricing has really made an impact on alcohol consumption, and says footballer Ronaldo has forgotten who pays his huge wages
The recycling wagon was round our way on Thursday and the crashing sound of glass was a satisfying evidence that more households are doing their bit for the environment. However, the sight of empty wine, beer, whisky and gin bottles squeezed into those blue bins outside every house was a reminder that a lot of folk have been driven to drink more than usual while working from home.
It struck me as an odd juxtaposition with figures out this week from Public Health Scotland showing that last year, alcohol consumption in Scotland fell to its lowest level in 26 years. Total alcohol sales fell 5% on the previous year,
The figures were welcomed by health campaigners and the Public Health Minister Maree Todd claimed it as a vindication of the minimum pricing policy. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are now calling for the unit price to be raised further “to finish the job”.
But is that really the reason for the fall? Or was the lower availability or alcohol a big factor in the figures? The report notes that alcohol sales were restricted because Covid-19 restrictions meant premises such as pubs, clubs, and restaurants were closed. We’ve just gone through a year without physical conferences, banquets, weddings, festivals and other events where drink is served in vast quantities. So it is surely no surprise that sales and consumption are down.
Nine in every ten units of alcohol sold in Scotland in 2020 were sold via off-trade outlets including supermarkets and other off-licences – an increase from seven in every ten units in 2019. That is the figure that backs up the evidence shown in the blue bins outside people’s homes. It also explains why Scotland still has a battle with the booze that minimum pricing does nothing to stop. On the contrary, drinking at home is uncontrolled and creates other damaging consequences.
It’s time the Scottish government turned its focus away from pricing and more towards ensuring alcohol is consumed in controlled environments – and is discouraged in favour of increasingly popular non-alcoholic drinks at public events when they reopen.
Supporting pubs through the tax and rates system so they are competitive with supermarkets would not only help to keep them open, it would be a better way of managing consumption.
Ronaldo should be reminded who helps make him rich
Coca Cola has been a big sponsor of the Euro football tournament since 1998 and the World Cup since 1978 and the company will expect a better response to its support for sport than having $4 billion wiped from its share price because of the actions of one player.
It’s being said that Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to replace two bottles of Coke placed in front of him at a press conference with a bottle of water was not only about telling those watching that he values a healthy lifestyle, but a gesture aimed at protecting his personal brand.
That may have something to do with it, but he has been happy on previous occasions to be associated with the Coca Cola brand and also with KFC and McDonalds.
Sponsors are usually concerned when sports players get involved in failing drugs tests or misbehaviour, but one brand analyst said the deliberate snubbing of a sponsor on a public stage by someone of Ronaldo’s stature could be very damaging. A lesser player may not have got away with it.
His actions, echoed by other players, has been dubbed “athlete activism”, but everyone knows the rules and how to get sponsors’ names displayed on their shirts and hats when the cameras are pointed at them.
Ronaldo and his footie rebels may feel they are making a stand, but their gestures would perhaps be taken more seriously if they followed up by forfeiting a slice of the huge earnings they enjoy in large part because of the millions poured into the game by sponsors such as Coca Cola.
Terry Murden formerly held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business