SBPA defends Challenge 25

Policy has succeeded in reducing illegal sales

By Dave Hunter

TRADE group the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has come to the defence of the Scottish Government’s Challenge 25 policy following comments from Scotland’s most senior police officer.

In a recent report to licensing boards across Scotland, Sir Stephen House, chief constable of Police Scotland, said the policy had succeeded only in changing how young people acquire alcohol, rather than reducing consumption.
“The introduction of Challenge 25 from October 1, 2011 has not seen any reduction in the consumption of alcohol by children and young persons,” said the report, “however there is a move towards ‘agent purchase’ of alcohol and much less instances of children or young persons purchasing alcohol themselves.”
However, SBPA chief executive, Patrick Browne, said Challenge 25 has achieved what it set out to do.
“Challenge 25 was never about reducing consumption, it was about reducing illegal sales, and, ironically, the fact he [Sir Stephen] is suggesting proxy sales are increasing seems to suggest Challenge 25 has actually worked,” said Browne.
“If it hadn’t worked you wouldn’t have had an increase in proxy sales.
“I think there needs to be a distinction in the unlawful sale – and we’ve put a lot of effort into stopping that – and consumption, which I think is a related issue but not one that Challenge 25 was ever going to tackle in itself.”
Sir Stephen’s report, a version of which was sent to each licensing board and licensing forum, is the first to have been issued since Scotland’s eight police forces were united into a single organisation earlier this year.
It details the involvement of police in tackling “alcohol misuse” in each board area between 2012 and 2013, as well as setting out a plan for how the single force will continue to work with the trade and boards in the year ahead.
Sir Stephen said Police Scotland would continue to tackle underage drinking using tactics such as test purchasing and bottle marking, as well as intelligence gathering programmes, which include interviewing young people.
“I want to deliver long-term change, positively improving the quality of life for individuals, families and communities throughout Scotland, underpinned by our core message – keeping people safe,” he said.