A good excuse for some co-operation

ALCOHOL has been on my mind recently. The debate in Scotland has centred on the SNP government’s failed attempt to ban under-21s from buying booze from off-licences.

It was a flawed idea and deserved to fail. But I do wonder why there’s a smirk, or even a sneer, not far below some of the criticisms made of the nationalists’ so-called war on alcohol. Don’t politicians and the commentariat realise the immense damage done to our society and our country by the misuse of alcohol?

My late mother always used to answer criticism of her only hobby – smoking – by pointing out that the health effects of tobacco were tiny compared with those of alcohol. And she was right. I don’t have to repeat the litany, you’ve all heard it before – accident and emergency units on a Saturday night, the number of alcohol-fuelled violent attacks in the street and, arguably worse, in the home.

When was the last time you heard of someone becoming violent because they had just chain-smoked 20 Benson and Hedges?

So perhaps instead of scoring political points off each other on the issue, the political parties could work together to try to find solutions. In the current session of Holyrood, we’ve had at least three reviews of the parliament’s constitutional powers. How about a commission that may actually have a positive effect on the people we represent? What about a cross-party commission on alcohol abuse? The conclusions would not be binding on MSPs, but it would perhaps come up with two or three serious proposals that would command broader support than what the SNP has proposed and had knocked back.

I’m as much in favour of political knock-about as anyone. But alcohol – or rather, its abuse – is destroying individuals and families in every one of our communities. It’s time we started coming up with solutions instead of headlines.


Filed under Holyrood, Scottish Government, SNP, Society

9 responses to “A good excuse for some co-operation

  1. I suspect that part of the issue is about who actually sees alcohol as damaging and in what way. And do they think they are in any way implicated?

    For example at the weekend version of the Glasgow Evening Times had a poll that said that 99% of people were worried about the effects of alcohol on their community.

    Now the obvious question is this: are those 99% really saying that 1% of the community cause all alcohol-related problems? Because that would of course be nonsense; if alcohol is a problem then that means people who were saying they were worried by it would have to be accepting some responsibility for it.

    And whilst in some cases this will be true in others I suspect not. So some of the SNP’s valid ideas will be ignored because people – who don’t believe they’re part of the problem, which may or may not be true – don’t want to see blanket plans which impact on them.

    A cross-party approach is therefore the best way forward. Just like the current bail out for banks when all politicians unite behind one potentially unpopular approach it makes it harder to take apart, and I suspect makes the public think more about the merits of the plan.

    The downside with the SNP’s plans were that they fell into the trap of wanting to be seen to be tough, and thus far have refused to back down even in the face of pretty overwhelming opposition. The u-21 drink sales ban is the perfect example.

    Not only did this move utterly contradict many of their other plans e.g. votes at 16, etc but it hardly seems to attract support from anywhere. A better move might have been a half-way house – perhaps requiring everyone under-25 to produce ID to buy alcohol in off-licences. And if this had failed the SNP would then be in a stronger position to go back to their original plan.

    But ultimately a cross-party/cross-community plan will only ever happen when the community genuinely wants it.

  2. Johnny Norfolk

    Why not just leave us alone to make our own mind up. Do you know all these bottles and containers that have these safety caps on that you have to press and hold to open. We are finding them so difficult to get off that when we do we either replace the cap with a cork or leave the cap loose on the top. Most of my aged friends do the same. So with interfearing it is now less safe than before. Just leave things alone.

  3. Tom,

    That is a tremendous suggestion.

    It’s nice to see someone from the Labour benches try some form of constructive opposition instead of political posturing. Alcohol is a huge problem here. The SNP’s under-21 plan was flawed – but it raised the debate, which is the least that is required. We need ideas on how to tackle this scourge of society – and if a “commission” will do it then its an idea we should explore.


  4. richard

    The same arguments could easily be made in favour of the legalisation of cannabis. Its use is endemic and the health effects and social effects are negligible in comparison with other legal products including sugary foods and big-macs.

    Legalise it, tax it, job done.

  5. Madasafish

    Start by banning 24 hour drinking.

  6. Monkfish

    Tom – great idea and I agree with #3 above.

    However I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it jarring when politicians of any shade try to take the moral high ground on a particular issue and say that issue X is too important for Punch & Judy politics. These same politicos will with their following breath attack party Y’s spokesman on something else for being lily-livered or in some other way flopsy.

  7. Johnny Norfolk

    If it is such a problem why did Labour make it worse by scrapping the licence laws. Labour appear to be in denial. Or perhaps its the Tories fault when Heath was in power.

    Labour the party that blames everyone but itself.

  8. Angryvoter

    Personally Tom I think the problems started when we started removing the licenses from pubs that served the odd pint to underage drinkers.

    Many kids who were drinking underage, myself included, would only risk one or two pints and be quiet and in the corner out of the way not drawing attention to ourselves. It was a good way also of getting used to drinking alcohol in small quantities.

    When we hurled all the kids out of the pubs they got their older mates, or their mates brothers to buy booze for them from off licenses and supermarkets, usually low priced, high alcoholic content stuff and they simply spilled onto the streets because they didn’t want their parents finding out.

  9. Martin Cullip

    Smoking, Marmite, tomato ketchup … then onto alcohol.

    Won’t somebody pleeeeease think of the ‘personally responsible’ ?!?! 😉

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