Although not a religious person in the accepted sense of the word, I like the idea of having patron saints with the job of looking after one or more of the quirky parts of human nature.
You name it and there’s a holy person from back there in history that is charged with the unrewarding task of looking after some aspect of life.
One such celestial social worker is going to have his work cut out in Scotland for the foreseeable future thanks to the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol.
I’m not sure if St Jude, that patron saint of lost causes is entirely appropriate to the issue, but so far Mr Google has not yet found me any patron saints who protect really stupid people or more specifically those who get into a bind through overindulgence in alcohol. If none exists, it might be a good idea to advertise somewhere for suitable applicants for the job, always assuming likely candidates are not off on a bender at the time.
My belief in such folk is not a matter of faith, rather than a suspicion that somewhere, somehow there’s something or somebody out there that has saved me from my own folly enough times to remove any thought of mere coincidence. You’d better believe it!
Anyway, back to the booze question. I note the current Scottish government has moved a step further towards imposing a minimum charge of alcohol. For the life of me I cannot see why this has not been done before now.
Fair enough, any move intended to tackle the appalling problems created by the cheap booze culture in Scotland is an excellent thing, as it now rules the daily round of a large percentage of the population.
Without any doubt the major booze outlets will girn no end about the minimum charge hitting hard on the poor rather than the rich, but that brand of public bar socialism has had its day. The cut price hooch market is designed in the first instance to encourage people to firstly buy much more drink than is good for them, secondly to shop at a particular retail outlet, and thirdly to give said retail outlet a popular image. As a certain stuffed meercat dummy would say “eeze seemples, yes?”.
Some claim that if booze is too cheap the better response is to slap on a hefty tax or, in the case of Scotland, a supplementary levy to raise funding which can then be used to promote more education where more is so clearly needed. Not a bad idea in itself, but it doesn’t take a genius to realise that anyone with a drink habit, even one that does not tick all the boxes for alcoholism, is capable of devoting much of their time and cash to the task of obtaining a decent supply.
I laugh out loud when the guys who brew the cheap stuff not to mention those who retail it, when they claim to be all for sensible use of alcohol. Do me a favour, please. Their mission is to sell as much of the stuff as they can and leave the state to clear up the mess, which always results from binge drinking. It might well be the case that sometime in the future, within our increasingly litigious society, a few folk, perchance those queuing up for a liver transplant, will crank up a class action against some of the big brewers claiming personal damage from their products.
I have a feeling the monastic brewers of a certain tonic wine might be first in the firing line as it has always been marketed along the lines of being some form of potion beneficial to health. Those who doubt such a move is possible might pause a moment to recollect a similar legal action in the U.S. against the major tobacco companies. I never did discover who won, or even if the case is still making its way through the system, but I do remember the major tobacco concerns found themselves with a real fight on their hands at the time.
Looking around the world there seems to be more than a little merit to the proposition that the off-sale of alcoholic beverages should be taken out of all shops and supermarkets and confined to strictly supervised liquor stores licensed to sell only booze and baccy.
We might not need to go back to the old ways when off licences suffered very severe restrictions on opening hours, or even the days of prohibition, but when you read the laws governing the sale of alcohol in olden times you will realise they were an attempt to reduce consumption and at times it was a matter of national importance; witness the times when all pubs in the Carlisle area were state owned to protect the giant ammunition works at Longtown. Very little time passes without new ideas being floated as to how we can wean the Scots off the sauce for their own good.
Finding ways of cutting off the supply is a good start point but easily circumvented by the determined topers. Education is maybe the real answer but requires all the political parties to work together, itself unlikely as a fair old wedge of brewing profits discretely finds its way into the coffers of political parties in order to maintain a degree of influence; but the most cynical example of government duplicity is the simple sum arising from the fact that all alcohol retailed in the UK attracts tax and excise duty. A reduction in consumption means another area of revenue where the Chancellor loses out. This is already happening with vehicle fuel and excise, and alcohol could easily go the same way.
When it comes to alcohol abuse only a total fool would deny there is a desperate need for action designed to reduce personal consumption across the full range of the UK population, the most desperate need being among youngsters. But every measure offered attracts it owns set of critics – the minimum pricing legislation is no exception to that – but whatever is said and done, and in full view of the Pilgrim’s lack of enthusiasm for the SNP and its ambitions, at least they have had the guts to actually do something instead of all that useless chat and political bickering, and for that we should all be just a little grateful.