Labour unveils plans to curb under-age alcohol sales

LABOUR today set out measures aimed at curbing the supply of alcohol to under 18s which it claims are "workable."

Justice spokesman Richard Baker called for the 'Challenge 21' scheme to be made mandatory for all off sales – as an alternative to "daft" Government plans to ban under 21s from buying drink.

The Labour proposals have the backing of retailers, trades unions and campaigners.

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"Today Scottish Labour is proposing a workable plan that will help curb the supply of alcohol to under 18s," Mr Baker said.

"The SNP's daft plans to ban under 21's from buying alcohol from off-licences have been laughed out of the park as completely unworkable.

"It is high time Kenny MacAskill moved on from trying to grab headlines with his nonsensical policies and instead get on with the job of Government which is coming up with practical solutions to real problems."

The Government plans are expected to be included in the forthcoming licensing Bill.

The Challenge 21 scheme sees retailers asking for identification if a customer doesn't look 21 – but they will be served if their identification shows they are over 18.

Mr Baker says it will lead to a "healthy culture" where youngsters expect to be challenged when buying alcohol.

Some retailers already run Challenge 25 schemes.

Labour's proposals would make it a legal requirement for alcohol retailers to ask for proof of age at the point of purchase for all customers who appear under the age of 21.

The rollout of a nationally recognised proof-of-age card would also be accelerated, while the the assault of a shop worker would be made a specific offence in law.

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Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, welcomed the plans.

"As responsible retailers we recognise that it is vital we play our part in protecting young people by cutting the supply of alcohol to under 18s," she said.

Stewart Forrest, from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), also backed calls from Labour to extend the protections available to shop workers.

"The sad reality is that all too often shop staff working on the front line are subjected to verbal and even physical abuse when they ask consumers for ID or refuse to sell alcohol to those that cannot prove their age," he said.

Tom French, co-ordinator of the Coalition Against Raising the Drinking Age in Scotland (CARDAS), added: "These policies will work in tandem to hammer home a clear message to retailers and provide an effective barrier to young people that attempt to purchase alcohol underage."