Although I consider myself to be "Scottish", I am really part of a substantial diaspora of Scots who feel quite passionately linked to the country whilst not having lived there much during our lives.
In my case, it was a visit to my family at least once a year for about 12 years, plus 4 years at University. I cannot therefore really comment on the day to day issues of alcohol abuse in the country, but I am quite aware that Scotland has major health issues associated with alcohol and drugs. Despite this, I think it is still important to speak up against decisions being taken that simply will not have any effect except to frustrate and inconvenience the vast law-abiding majority of drinkers.
You may already have heard that today the Scottish Parliament will be discussing the possibility of raising the age at which you can buy alcohol in the shops to 21 from the current age of 18. This will not apply in pubs and restaurants, only off licences.
To read more, click here for the Radio 4 Coverage (probably only available for 7 days from 16/06/2008) or here for the article.
I have already read a reasoned response from The Tasting Note which I encourage you to read as it prompted the following thoughts.
I agree with almost everything Peter says*. Why is it that politicians cannot think straight about alcohol? I posted something along these lines some time ago and it obviously needs updated. I have also mentioned my thoughts on binge drinking and taxation.
Education is key to this, such as the potentially useful developments at the Responsible Drinkers Alliance, but so is something else.
I find myself, maybe as I grow older (!), wishing that our country (Scotland or UK, whatever you identify with) had a shared purpose.
It occurred to me recently, listening to Bill Bailey on Desert Island Disks (see, told you I was getting old & fuddy-duddy) that in his past, as with many of the more creative personalities I happen to like that have appeared on this show, he was very much into punk music - it was liberating. It was an ACTIVE rebellion.
Now, the watchword is ... Whatever!
We have never been so ****** PASSIVE. And instead what do we do? We go out and get blind drunk, then vent frustrations, anger, anxiety and energy on each other.
Our politicians, of any political persuasion, need to find ways to engage all of us in something positive, not to fiddle around the edges with confusing 'initiatives' attacking the symptoms rather than the causes of this behaviour.
Education can start the discussion and even foster the conversation, but what alternatives are we offering people, whether they are children, young adults, or even disillusioned adults?
I realise this may not be the forum for this sort of topic as we are straying deep into the territory of political blogs, but I think it is part of the discussion.
If I was to suggest a possible path to follow, it would be to take the green agenda and REALLY go for it. We could make Scotland, or the UK, a real leader in this area and get everyone involved in recycling, living in a sustainable way and thinking of the implications of our actions.
There is no direct link with reducing binge drinking, but if we were engaging people, especially young people, and giving them opportunities to get involved in something they believed was meaningful, then I am certain it would be addressed.
The combined benefits to the planet and our society would be great, and we would have a tough, but useful, goal to share - and this could translate to all walks of life, including wine.
I sincerely hope that the Scottish Parliament will see that raising the legal age for buying alcohol is not the answer any more than simply increasing the price of alcohol through taxation or demonising the product itself.
For goodness sake, can we not have an adult conversation about this?
See also: CARDAS - Campaign Against Raising the Drinking Age in Scotland
* It is just a side issue, but one thing I am not sure about is the idea of limiting what individuals can buy. You'd easily get around it by buying from two shops and all it does (again) is annoy respectable drinkers wanting to buy alcohol. I do, however, think it would be a good idea to encourage ALL of those who buy alcohol to prove their age. Think 21, or 25 or whatever is fine, but it just makes everyone less uncomfortable and does make it easier to go after irresponsible retailers if necessary.