It's Sunday so, as has become a weekend tradition, the righteous take the opportunity to lecture us. While we all enjoy a lie in, put our feet up and pour a cool one in front of Sky Sports, Nicola Sturgeon is all over the news envisioning her fantasy alcohol armageddon.
She added: "All the evidence tells us that the big rise in Scottish alcohol consumption in recent decades is closely linked with the 70% drop in alcohol's relative cost. As a consequence, our country now faces an unprecedented burden from alcohol-related health problems, crime and lost economic productivity, which runs into billions and which we are all paying for."
Now, let's leave the fallacious 'costs to the country' argument, neatly destroyed by VGIF recently, and focus instead upon the 70% claim and Sturgeon's insistence of its causative nature.
Her figure is the widely touted one which compares affordability between 1980 and now. According to the ONS, though, the cost of alcohol has increased in real terms during that time.
Between 1980 and 2008, the price of alcohol increased by 283.3%. After considering inflation (at 21.3%), alcohol prices increased by 19.3% over the period
So, while puritans and the health establishment regularly, and viciously, target the supermarkets and alcohol industry, they have only been doing as any business would in a capitalist market - charging the price which is most favourable for maximising their profits.
Indeed, the price of bread, for example, has followed the very same path. Costing 33p in 1980, a calculation of its price now returns £1.23, which is about right. In fact, considering bread has risen almost exactly in line with inflation, you could argue that bread is even more affordable than alcohol over the same timeframe. The prices of just about any product you care to choose, from any supermarket, would tell the same story.
It's not the supermarkets, or the brewers and distillers, evilly attempting to subvert society, it is the success of capitalism (you know, the system which is now apparently discredited and 'dead'?) and its huge benefits in driving down costs, improving production, and raising incomes to boot.
However, the righteous need a demon to attack, they always do, so alcohol suppliers will be in for more bruising handbaggings yet.
Digression aside, let's assume there has been none of the usual massaging of the figures, and that the 70% increase in affordability is correct. Sturgeon's assertion that this is 'closely linked' to the alcohol problem doesn't seem to be borne out by consumption figures.
UK Consumption of alcohol
Litres per head of 100% alcohol
1980 - 7.4
1990 - 7.9
1998 - 7.9
1999 - 8.3
2000 - 8.4
2001 - 8.7
2002 - 9.1
2003 - 9.2
2004 - 9.5
2005 - 9.4
2006 - 9.0
2007 - 9.2
2008 - 8.9
Such a huge increase in dispensable income, coupled with lesser working hours and therefore more leisure time, should be accompanied by a much larger increase in consumption than the meagre 20% in nearly 30 years. In fact, consumption has been steadily declining in the past five years, so why tinker when it's clear that things are going in the right direction?
There really is no panic, no 'booze epidemic', and no reason for the incessant hype surrounding the subject.
It is also not true to say that affordability and consumption are 'closely linked'. There is a correlation, but that's about it. Or, to put it another way, if we were to believe Sturgeon's simplistic declaration of causation, we can see from these figures that it would take a 70% decrease in affordability to bring consumption back to 1980 levels.
And a 40p minimum price isn't going to bring about anything of the sort. But once it becomes clear, as it inevitably will, that little or no difference is being made, so will the insistence increase on more draconian meaures to save us all from ourselves.
Strangely, the real problem we face are the righteous themselves. As JohnB pointed out this week, history tells us (and if MPs weren't so damn stupid they would see this from their own reports) there isn't any real difference between now and 100+ years ago.
The data shows that, before the global descent into miserable puritanism around World War I that led to prohibition in the US and draconian licensing rules in the UK, alcohol consumption was around its current level.
It then spiked after the war ended, fell during the Depression, rose slightly during the mid-late 1930s and WWII, fell in the austerity period, and then rose fairly consistently from 1950 onwards – accelerating slightly since 1995 due to increased wine consumption. We’re now at about 9 litres of pure alcohol per head per year, compared to 11 litres in 1900.
A right royal storm in a pint pot, which one could say is 'closely linked' to fake charities and quangoes being shovelled great piles of our money.
This manufactured problem is nothing to do with consumption, affordability, or prices, but directly caused by a state which is too large, throwing too much cash at too many career doom-mongers.
I think we're more than ready for that bonfire.