Surviving Scotland's war on alcohol
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
You would have thought that a country that relies so heavily on sales of whiskey would have a somewhat relaxed attitude to alcohol, but Scotland has quite the opposite.
I found this out quite recently when, arriving late back in town, I tried to buy one bottle of wine. The shop was open until 10.30 and since it was only 9.55 I thought I had plenty of time to peruse the shelves and get a decent Merlot to take home with me. I found what I was looking for relatively easily and sauntered over to the till before realising I was being pursued by someone I chose to believe was a woman.
‘Excuse me!’ she not-quite but almost shouted. I turned and was greeted by what appeared to be someone wearing a tent.
‘Hello, yes?’ I asked.
‘It’s ten O’clock, I’m afraid,’ said the tent.
I looked at my watch which said it was 9.59, but what the heck. I didn’t know why she had accosted me to tell me the time, though and stood there blankly.
‘You can’t buy that,’ went on the tent, physically grabbing the bottle and pulling it out of my hands as if I had just been caught taking a baby out of the ward.
‘But why not, you’re open for another half hour, aren’t you?’
She looked at me as if I were from another planet. ‘It is illegal to buy alcohol after 10pm’, she went on, ‘or before 10am’, in case I was minded to come back next morning.
‘But that’s silly. Pubs are still open and anyway isn’t it better to be safely tucked away at home drinking than rolling around the streets afterwards?’
The tent didn’t like my tone, I do believe, and I noticed several other staff members drifting towards me in a pincer movement just in case I was desperate enough to wrest the bottle from wherever she had secreted it and run into the night.
She shrugged, causing a small shock-wave to run down what could only be called a body because it was attached to her head.
‘That’s the law,’ she said serenely and took the bottle back to the shelf.
And that’s what I mean, because buying alcohol in Scotland, you know, contributing to the economy and supporting small shops and businesses, is somewhat frowned upon. So much so that the government here last year introduced a minimum pricing on alcohol of 50 pence per unit, which basically means that no-one can sell the stuff for less. So, no more promotions or special offers; and it also meant that everything went up in price at the same time.
Smashing. So why is Scotland's war on alcohol so intense?
I am told, via a helpful government website, that quite honestly it’s for my own good. If it’s more expensive for me to buy alcohol and I can’t get access after 10pm it will have the effect of, and I quote,
· preventing crime and disorder
· securing public safety
· preventing public nuisance
· protecting and improving public health, and
· protecting children and young persons from harm
Well thank God for that, because I didn’t know that once I have had a drink I become a danger to the public – and double-thanks for protecting my health!
So with my newly-found good health and ability to steer away from criminal activities in the street, I did what every good Scot should do – bought a home wine-making kit. This now not only means I will not be accosted in shops to protect myself from myself, but can drink irresponsibly at home for about 80 pence per bottle. So let me just say that Scotland's war on alcohol has probably done what prohibition once notably achieved.
Drinks producers have obviously tried to get around the issue in all manner of creative ways such as making their bottles fractionally smaller, so they contain fewer units or by reducing the amount of alcohol they contain - It is quite usual to find bottles of so-called 'wine' containing 10% or so alcohol, which to my mind is just fortified grape juice.
And in the spirit of doing good deeds, I would like to propose a new law called ‘minimum legislation pricing’ in which politicians are charged a minimum of 50 pence for every silly word they write into law and also bans them from making decisions between 10am to 10pm, seven days a week.
To that I will raise my glass and make a toast...