Tuesday, 17 June 2008


This is a quick blog in response to a comment in the previous posting regarding the SNP Government's proposals to tackle problems with alcohol consumption in Scotland. I had planned to write a longer and more considered response, but I've only got 5 minutes before I need to catch a train.

First of all, I think it's ridiculous that we have got to the stage when we need to consider measures like this. After all, the vast majority of us enjoy the odd alcoholic drink without any problem. But I also think that, as a nation, our relationship with alcohol has become so problematic that we need to start looking at more radical action.

We need to change our attitude towards alcohol as a nation, but that doesn't happen overnight. And while availability is not the root cause of the problem (I could walk into the shop across the road right now and but all the alcohol I could carry, drink it and then most likely end up in hospital, but I CHOOSE not to), it is helping to fuel binge drinking - particularly among younger people. And governments can't change cultures overnight, but they can take steps that will help to begin to shift attitudes over time.

The SNP's proposals may not turn out to be universally popular, and I am open-minded about the arguments for and against these specific measures, but I think some credit is due for at least putting this on the agenda and for making some tough decisions about it too.

I'm sure if somebody had suggested these measures when I was a student, I would have been outraged too. But on reflection, I did drink more alcohol than I should have at university and no doubt unwittingly put myself in danger because of it too. Drinking vast amounts of alcohol and drinking to get drunk has become a social norm in Scotland, and a right of passage for many young people. But this is not the case in other countries, and I think people in Scotland deserve something better.

Right, I am ready for the backlash!


Anonymous said...

Argh. So, this drinking that you did too much of at university and which in hindsight you wish the state had prevented you from indulging in... did it ruin your life?

Seems like you're running for office, right? It seems like it didn't do much harm in the grand scheme of things. (then again - if we consider this blog post and how drinking kills braincells... ;-))

And yet on reflection you think it would be fine and dandy for the government to have stepped in and treated you like a child, because 'as a nation' 'we' need to blah blah blah.

Sorry, but using the formulation 'as a nation' is just attempting to minimise peoples' personal responsibility to behave sensibly.

The Scottish government has decided it's too gutless to tackle the actual problem and instead it's going to introduce blanket bans and fines (aka surcharges on alcohol prices) to strip away rights enjoyed responsibly by tens of thousands of citizens, and penalise them regardless of how they actually behave.

I think this whole thing has revealed a sickening underlying contempt for individual peoples' rights.

This will hit the wrong people twice: first because it'll penalise them unfairly, and secondly because the anti-social binge drinking kids will still manage to find a drink and continue to ruin other peoples' evenings.

Perhaps 'as a nation' we need to start thinking about our health - compulsory exercise in the office carpark of a morning, and 50% tax on sweets. At the moment I think that'd be hugely insulting, patronising and nannying, but I'm sure once the government persuades me I'll be an eager little exerciser. Maybe they'll provide natty matching tracksuits...

Julie Hepburn said...

I don't know if I would count standing for election as proof that I suffered little 'harm in the grand scheme of things' ;o) Perhaps if I had spent less time talking about politics in the pub, I may have found a different path in life. But here I am, having a 'virtual' debate with anonymous from the comfort of my own home.

I actually agreed with your gut reaction to the proposals and thought I made clear in my original post that I was open-minded about the proposals, purely because alcohol misuse is such a big problem in our nation or society or towns (whichever you prefer). Anti-social behaviour, violence in our town centres, A&E departments clogged with people having their stomachs pumped. I'm not for a moment suggesting that everyone who drinks alcohol, even those who drink too much alcohol, would behave in this way - however it is a huge problem that we need to tackle.

For me, the very fact that we are having this exchange of views because of the Government's proposals is a good thing. If you have ideas for alternatives for tackling the drinking culture that is doing so much damage to our health and society, then I for one would be happy to hear them and I'm sure the SNP Government would be too.

But please note one thing. It's not like the Ministers got out of bed one day and this idea popped into their heads. The proposals are based on existing policies elsewhere in the world, and on the findings of a pilot scheme here in Scotland. You may not like them, but they are grounded in research.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response. This issue has got me riled up to be sure. I'm just watching the Justice Secretary (no stranger to the drink, and had a run-in with the plod in London while the worse for wear, as I no doubt incorrectly recall) haranging us all and telling us to take a long look at ourselves. 'National problem = everyone's guilty'. Nope, sorry pal - not guilty.

He's lost the plot, to be quite frank.

Anyway good luck extricating yourselves from this mess (I voted SNP, so haven't got it in for you).

Jeff said...

Yes, good to see Anonymous tackled the request for alternative suggestions head on there. I think you clipped his wings very well there by the way.

I'm finding it quite common that the outrage at the SNP potential policies does not come with any better ideas for this problem that's gone on too long. I'm also heartened that most of the popular press believe the ideas to be bold, worthwhile and long overdue.

I for one, especially given the successes in West Lothian, would like to give it a try...

I also agree that a swicth in attitude is required. I barely drank before university but did so in copious amounts once settling into Halls of Residence.

Very bizarre.

David Linden said...


I think you make some good points in your blog.

For instance, I'm 18 years old and have only recently been, by law allowed to go into a pub with family, friends and so on and go up to bar and purchase myself an alcoholic drink. I also now have the freedom to walk into a supermarket or off license and purchase a bottle of whisky or pack of lager.

This proposal, in my opinion is a bit of a slur on the many young people who do drink alcohol responsibly. Take for instance, next week I'm planning on going to the Springburn BBQ. These new proposals would say, well David can buy a pint in a pub, but can't go and purchase a pack of smirnoff ice or what have you. Hmm, a bit strange.

It's ironic, and to some degree hypocritical that the Scottish Government announce support for lowering the voting age to 16, which I fully commend, but then later to propose moving the age of purchase for alcohol to 21.

Speaking as a young person, I don't support this.

From a bias partisan point of view this will do us no favours.

I'd much rather see a different approach to this problem, i.e catching the "agents" who are supplying the alcohol or maybe even introducing the scheme being used in West Lothian.

At the end of the day, if you're 18, 19, or 20 you're still going to drink in the pub's or someone else will supply it.

Anonymous said...

I support the proposals - don't give in the alcohol industry! Well done SNP!