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Bars unsure if responsible drinking cards would work

HANDING out cards to pub-goers to promote responsible drinking would result in them going “straight in the bin”, according to the chairwoman of Shetland’s licensing forum.

The idea of having small awareness-raising cards and information on display in licensed premises was discussed at a joint meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s licensing board and the isles’ licensing forum on Tuesday.

It came after NHS Shetland suggested recently that a condition of awarding a premises licence should be that “staff clearly understand how to recognise problem drinking, and know where to direct customers for help and support if required”.

Public health principal Elizabeth Robinson said she was not expecting to see the idea on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting as it was still in its infancy, and as a result she recommended that the matter be deferred for further development.

While her wish was granted, it did not stop a discussion from taking place on the merits of the proposal.

Robinson said that alcohol-related admissions to hospital in Shetland costs the health board at least £83,000 a year.

She admitted that the “health board doesn’t have that kind of money” to spend on alcohol patients, and she highlighted that cash-strapped NHS Shetland is having to rely on public fundraising to buy a much-needed MRI scanner.

Councillor Stephen Leask pondered if money spent on raising awareness would in fact have a positive impact on long-term finances on a “spend to save” basis.

Licensing forum chairwoman and manager of Da Wheel Bar Debbie Leask, meanwhile, said that her premises tends to deal with over consumption of alcohol on a one-to-one “rapport basis”, something which Shetland Arts’ Bryan Peterson echoed.

She said that while posters promoting responsible drinking would work, giving customers cards would not as they would likely end up being chucked away.

Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament Sonny Thomason said he worked in The Lounge in the summer and admitted that he would have felt “anxious” about telling patrons that they had a problem with drinking.

The Dowry co-owner Erik Burgess added that his company promoted drinking quality alcohol for its taste rather than to get drunk.