Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Not worth the paper they’re printed on

Plenty of other bloggers such as Dick Puddlecote and Mr Eugenides have had a go at the ludicrous restrictions in the Scottish government’s new licensing act, so I didn’t see much point in simply echoing their comments.

But one point that has so far gone unremarked is that, because of the ban on any drink promotions and discounts, the vouchers that have been given to CAMRA members allowing them 50p off a pint of real ale in Wetherspoon’s pubs have now been rendered worthless north of the border. This is despite the fact that (officially at least) only one voucher can be used per person per visit, so they can hardly be accused of being an encouragement to binge-drinking.

Maybe this might at last bring home to the powers-that-be in CAMRA that they are in a bare-knuckle fight with the anti-drink lobby who are determined to severely curtail the responsible enjoyment of alcoholic drinks. Or will they continue gaily skipping hand-in-hand with Don Shenker down the road to prohibition?

It is also very easy to see these restrictions having the opposite effect to that intended and kill off innovation and progress in the Scottish licensed trade, turning such bars as remain back into dour, hole-in-the-corner drinking shops, as they often used to be before the liberalisation of licensing law that started in the 1970s.

Edit (22 September 2009): It seems that following further consultations, Wetherspoon’s have now agreed with the Scottish Government that these vouchers can be accepted, as it is very hard to see how, if the restrictions are adhered to, they can be seen as promoting excessive or irresponsible consumption.


  1. Superb spot, PB, and nicely applied to CAMRA's currently meek stance.

    Cheers for the link too, btw.

  2. They could always change the vouchers for tobacco products instead of beer, to be smoked off site of course. That might be too much for CAMRA of course.

  3. Good point about the Wetherspoons vouchers. I don't agree with all of the CAMRA-bashing comments, but I do have concerns that the campaign can sometimes appear to supping with the enemy. In addition to the Wetherspoons vouchers, there is the CAMRA investment club, which I believe has damaged perceptions of CAMRA's independence of vested interests.

  4. Have any Scottish members tried to use their Wetherspoon's vouchers since the new act came into force? and what is the company's stance on the matter?

  5. Paul, a contributor to the CAMRA web forum said:

    "The last straw came yesterday when on another trip south, I was told that due to a new nanny state legislation by the current Nazis in the Scottish Parliament that I can no longer use my vouchers in Scotland at all. Given that even Inverness is a 150 mile journey south for me it is impossible to now use any of the vouchers."

    I can't link to this because it is readable by registered members only.

    I have asked someone in the CAMRA hierarchy to confirm whether this is indeed the case - but given what I've read about the Scottish legislation I strongly suspect it is, as a vouchers for money off alcoholic drinks are not permitted.

  6. RedNev, I can understand the point about the vouchers giving the impression that CAMRA are getting too much into bed with Wetherspoons, although it's not something I personally can get very worked up about. AIUI it is entirely funded by Wetherspoons. I can't see "Punch Taverns Vouchers" going down so well ;-)

    I have always seen the CAMRA Investment Club as a way of members putting their money where their mouth is. I am a longstanding member and it has proved to be a remunerative investment. I only think a conflict of interest would arise if it got to the point where the club owned so many shares in a company that it could exercise influence over its policy, which I can't see happening in the forseeable future.

  7. I have asked someone in the CAMRA hierarchy to confirm whether this is indeed the case - but given what I've read about the Scottish legislation I strongly suspect it is, as a vouchers for money off alcoholic drinks are not permitted.

    This has now been confirmed on the CAMRA forum by Brett Laniosh.

    Some of you may be registered on the forum and thus able to read the link - you don't need to be a CAMRA member.

  8. I agree with you entirely. I don't believe for one minute that CAMRA's independence has been compromised, otherwise I would cancel my membership. I was referring only to perceptions, and I do know that there are some who perceive CAMRA as being too close to vested interests.

  9. There is obviously a tightrope to be walked between supporting and promoting real ale, and being too uncritically supportive of businesses that produce and sell real ale. I know some people criticise CAMRA for sucking up to the family brewers. This isn't something that really bothers me, and I feel locally that CAMRA plays an appropriate role as a "critical friend" to Robinsons, Holts, Hydes and Lees.

    However, the one thing recently that did leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth was the acceptance of the Wells & Youngs tie-up and the closure of the Ram Brewery. In many ways the deal made good business sense, but in the old days CAMRA would go ballistic when such things were done by the "Big Six", so perhaps double standards are being applied.


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