Monday, 7 November 2016

Delayed gratification

The latest proposal to rear its ugly head in the People’s Prohibitionist Republic of Scotland is one from “public health experts” to ban the sale of alcohol in the off-trade until 5pm. Now, this is objectionable on so many levels that I’m not going to make any attempt to list them. It represents a collective punishment meted out on the overwhelming majority of responsible drinkers in an attempt to address the problems of the irresponsible few.

One obvious issue is that it would be likely to lead to a kind of quasi black market of people buying drink on others’ behalf. A simple request to pick up of bottle of whisky while you’re out could easily lead on to someone carrying a small stock to supply people who find it inconvenient to buy it themselves. And I can’t see the Scotch whisky industry – the country’s leading export earner – being remotely happy about being prevented from selling bottles to coach parties on distillery tours.

In Sweden, which operates a similar hard-line attitude to alcohol sales, the state-run Systembolaget stores tend to close their doors just as the Scottish offies would be opening. You could just as well argue that earlier closing, rather than later opening, would achieve the same result, or lack of.

Of course the chances of this happening in the near future, even in Scotland, are zero. But, by laying it on the table, an Overton Window has been opened up in which such draconian proposals are brought within the scope of serious debate. And how long will it be before someone suggests banning pubs and bars from selling alcohol before 5pm too?

15 comments:

  1. The main purpose is to denormalise alcohol. To take it out of the regular weekly shop and make it a special purchase.

    It is a generational campaign aimed at those not currently of age to buy booze.

    The kids are growing up to view alcohol as a dangerous substance to be avoided. No wonder when they get older they swerve pubs in favour of Starbucks.

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    1. You're not wrong - it's a long game.

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  2. This isn't really a new initiative. In my youth in the sixties you could drink alcohol in a pub or buy it to take home from an off licence. Supermarkets, Post Offices, Newsagents, Sweet Shops didn't sell it as they do today. And licensed establishments had strictly controlled hours until fairly recently.

    And alcohol is a dangerous substance: far more dangerous than most class B and C listed drugs.

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    1. But off-licences could sell alcohol during lunchtime opening. And society was very different then.

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    2. Different in what significant way? I have noticed how much harder it is to get a lunchtime drink since the licensing laws were relaxed :-)

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  3. I reckon people would stockpile more booze than they needed if this came to pass, so it's a non-starter. Must be nice having a job that involves inventing schemes though.

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  4. “The report’s authors warn that alcohol has become “embedded” in society” - when did that happen? 6000BC (I refuse to use BCE) when brewing started.

    So I can still spend all my wages on Friday evening on Frosty Jack but someone doing the weekly shop on Saturday can’t buy a bottle of wine for Sunday?

    I came across this quotation: It was related to journalism but it still seems to have some relevance:-
    It is difficult to get someone to understand something, if his salary depends on not understanding it.

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  5. People addicted to alcohol will still be able to obtain it. And people don't become addicted to a substance simply because it's available. Has prohibition ever worked? Such hypocrisy too from the SNP who are forever banging on about the Scotch industry.

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    1. None of these measures are aimed at people who are addicted to alcohol. Alcoholics will always find a way to get booze, but are a very tiny minority of the population.

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    2. I'd say the prime objective was to denormalise alcohol purchasing and consumption amongst the general population.

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    3. I don't really understand why, but there you go.

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    4. Do you mean you don't understand why people would want to do that, or how the effect works?

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    5. Why people would want to. I can understand an urge to reduce problem drinking, both in the sense of alcoholism and disorderly public behaviour accompanying binges - but I don't see how this idea would resolve either of these.

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    6. Well, as Mencken said, "A Puritan is someone who lives in mortal fear that somewhere, sometime, someone is enjoying himself." And there's also a widely-held, although IMV questionable, view that reducing whole population alcohol consumption is a good way of addressing problem drinking.

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