Monday, 2 January 2012


The other day I was talking to the guy who looks after the changing rooms at my gym. I guess he's in his early 50s, and working in what must be a reasonably low pay job.

I mention this because, in the way you do, without  being particularly interested in the answer, I asked him what he was doing on Hogmanay. 

'Oh nothing much', he replied. 'Time was that you couldn't afford a drink that often, so you splashed out and bought a bottle or two at the New Year, but now that it's a cheap as chips at the supermarket, you can have it all the time. 

'Mind you', he added, 'in these days you could always afford heating. The treat nowadays is to be able to afford to have the whole house warm'.

I thought he was joking, until I got to thinking about it. But it's true that home heating prices are now exorbitant, and the cost of a warm house all winter is one that many working people can no longer afford. At the same time drink has become cheaper.

Someone is bound to have done one of those cost comparisons. You know the kind of thing. It sounds like an arithmetic problem from school: "A man on average wages in 1970 would have had to work 6 hours to be able to buy a bottle of Johnny Walker;  now the same man on the an average wage would only have to work 2 hours. What is the percentage reduction in price, relative to income."

I'd be interested if anyone knows where I could find it.

There has been a lot of criticism of the government's plans to increase the minimum price of a unit of alcohol, and I have been among their critics. I think that no matter what it costs, the compulsive drinker will buy drink. (S)he will find the money somehow. As with any increase in price, it will hit the poorest hardest. The rich are never really hurt by anything. Another £10, £20, £30 on their weekly drink bill will mean nothing. And the teenager out on the batter? A night out is expensive: adding another five or six pounds to it isn't going to stop them.

So, is this the answer? 

The chief medical officers of the UK countries seem to think so, and the Scottish government has already acted to bring in a raft of over 40 measures to tackle a problem that is reckoned to cost around £900 per adult in the country: A total of £3.56 million, around 10% of Scotland's total budget. England looks likely to be following our example.

If Britain has a sever problem with alcohol abuse, Scotland's is much worse. In fact alcohol sales in our country are 23% higher than in England and Wales.

We're not alone in having an alcohol problem, which as well as costing us so much of what we have to run Scotland, also makes our town centres no go areas on Friday and Saturday nights. Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Baltic states and Russia, all have the same issues. Is it the cold, the dark, the short summer? 

There has always been a macho culture about drink in Scotland. 'You're not a man if you can't drink 8 pints', sort of thing. You're a wimp if after a few pints you have an orange juice. And guys have always bragged about how drunk they got and how they had no idea of what they were doing. 

And in the recent past one of the less attractive aspects of sexual equality, has been the sight of teenage girls vomiting in shop doorways or lying drunk in the gutter.

We hear a lot of complaints from bloggers, newspaper columnists, and all, but rarely do we ever hear any really practical solutions put forward.
An effect of cirrhosis of the liver
I for one am sick to death of paying such a large proportion of the block grant to pump stomachs, deal with domestic violence, treat liver cirrhosis and cancer, patch up glassed faces, clean up vomit  etc., ad infinitum.

Has anyone got any constructive suggestions to offer?


  1. A draconian discipline regime in homes and schools. Shame, the weapon of choice, deprivation the next.

    Crazy but "spare the rod" has never been so comprehensively proven.

    The Left and its pathetic dogma that we are all the bloody same, has brought about a release and freedom of the baseness of Human Beings at the expense of the aspirational and decent.

  2. My family is riddled with alcoholics which is why I gave up drinking in my early 20s. I happened to read an article in a magazine about 'addictive personalities' and noticed that those symptoms related to me. I chose to stop before it got any worse; many in my family haven't. The answer is to price alcohol out of the market, but will that stop it? No, of course it won't. People will end up making their own in the same way that people now buy tobacco and cigarettes on the black market. However, that is not the point. The majority of people who are addicted to alcohol now will, probably, never come off it; they are a lost cause. What we should be doing, and this is where I think the Scottish government have got this right, is that there must be a several pronged attack; the raising of the price of alcohol is just one of the measures. Educating the young on the dangers, and showing pictures like you have done, will aid in this long term process.
    As to not being able to afford heating I am in that category. I can't afford to heat even one room in my house so I sit at my desk with my tammy on and a Silesian shepherd's coat that my girlfriend brought back from Poland a couple of years back. Luckily, she is returning again tomorrow so I'll have to heat the rooms that we use. The good thing about her return is that she helps with the bills when she is back home in Poland I freeze. I can afford to heat the rooms that I use but that means dipping into my savings; which I'm not prepared to do.
    Still, when/if independence comes we might be able to afford to heat our homes. I always thought that the system we have where we heat up large areas of open space, in our homes, is a complete waste of time and money because all we need to heat is ourselves. We, fit normal people, burn enough energy to keep out bodies at a decent temperature and several layers of clothing is more than enough to keep that heat in our bodies. The problems come when people are old or infirm and are unable to burn the necessary energy to keep themselves warm; this is where good household insulation comes in.
    Either that or we move en masse to warmer climes.

  3. Spot on Gedguy. It does my nut in when people complain that minimum pricing won't stop alcoholics from buying drink. That's not the aim of minimum pricing, it's to discourage those that aren't there yet from becoming alcoholics.

  4. Hello OR: Happy New Year.

    We used to have draconian discipline in Scottish schools, and in Scottish homes. I'd suggest particularly in the North West, where the Free Church reigned. It didn't work with alcohol then. It's more than discipline.

    Yes, we may be able to discipline people into not being drunk on the streets. For example most continentals would rather die than be seen drunk outside. I was in Paris recently for the first time in about 5 years, and I wondered if the self discipline regarding drunkenness would have edged away, and yet, I saw not one Frenchman staggering about off his head.

    But the cost of the middle class, middle aged, secret drinker is still high. Cirrhosis and cancers of the liver don't much care whether you did the drinking in a pub, openly with your mates, or if you had Gilbey's bottles hidden strategically in all 14 bedrooms in the east wing.

    On the subject of equality, I tend to think that we are all equal. Not the same, but equal.

    That is to say I do not consider myself to be different from Prince William; he is just richer and more privileged than I am.

    Nor am I different from Old Tam, the tramp; he is just poorer and less privileged than I am.

    Who knows what he might might have been had his father been a prince with an endless supply of money.

    Essentially we all eat, sleep, urinate and defecate. The rest is down to intellect and opportunity. And aspiration can be easily knocked out of people by lack of opportunity.

    So, if we are going to demand better behaviour from the lower classes, we have an obligation to demand it from the middle and upper classes too.

    Apart from the very richest, it's we who pay for their hospitalisation.

  5. The problem is not the price per-say, as who is doing the selling.

    For example, supermarkets tend to be rigorous in ensuring no under 18s can purchase. And their fines for failing in this regard are serious.

    BUT, the local corner shops are virtually unregulated. Dodgy and selling in the back doors to anyone with the cash to purchase.

    So PART of the answer is to clamp down harder on disreputable corner shops, by ensuring better enforcement there.

    And education, IN THE HOME. Parents need to set an example, by not necking a bottle of vino on the couch every night they have a hard day - schools can't replace solid examples set by role models (which also means, ending the pathetic celebrity exhibitions in ok mag kiss and tell club scene stories)

    But minimum pricing, punishing responsible drinkers, and reputable wholesalers and supermarkets? Now that is just cloud cookoo land courtesy of Alex and his new best friend Call-me-Dave.

  6. Ged:

    Interesting piece. Addictive behaviour does tend to he hereditary, yes, and like you I have a fair amount of it in my family. So whilst I could never say that I am TT, I'm an occasional drinker. I've put up with a fair amount of abuse from colleagues and mates... Wimp!

    But in any case I don't care to be seen when I'm not in control of my faculties.

    I agree with you, that the dangers of alcohol have to be made clear to kids. We have to educate them that by 25 they could be facing liver failure.

    But we have to offer alternatives.
    to sitting in the park getting ratted.

    And where I agree with OR, is that there should be shame in being seen lying in the gutter. We shouldn't be proud of the fact that we drink ourselves into a situation where we could no longer function.

    (Although I don't really think that 'whipping' people is the answer. :)

    I was talking to an Italian lad a few weeks ago. He said that no Italian guy would be drunk in front of girls; they would never want a drunk. His opinion of course. I'm sure it's not universal in Italy.
    I think most of us only heat what we need these days, one room for me too.

    But you make a good point that it is the old or the sick who can't get up and move around; who sit in front of a fire watching the power usage meter that Scottish gas provide and, in the end, go to bed at 7 pm to keep warm, that we should be caring for.

    What a bloody country, where you can afford to get blootered but you have to sit in the cold.

  7. Don Mc. Hello, welcome to the blog.

    If it contributes to discouraging taking up drinking, good.

    I think we have a hard battle though to convince young people that it's not smart to drink. I think that Dean mentions it further on in this discussion. When we have pictures of William, Harry and Beatrice falling out of clubs legless with cross eyes; when the kids' idols from music and sport are seen coming out of the same clubs, having spent a month or two's wage for most youngsters, on drink for the night, getting into scuffles... we're hardly showing a good example.

  8. I think that's a great point Dean.

    If the people that we look up to...from wherever, football, music, film, politicians, royalty, over indulge, why wouldn't the kids? Pop stars are more exciting role models than dads.

    But the mums and dads that fall about drunk, whether it is that Chardonnay, or the two bottles of cheap cider are bringing up their kids to accept that getting drunk is what we do; that it's a part of life.

    But my gym man had a point. Drink used to be much more expensive by comparison; maybe as Ged and Don Mc say, putting the price up with discourage people from starting.

    Who knows. What I do know is that even though 'Call Me' appears to be following Scottish policies with council tax freezes and minimum pricing, I bet Alex would bite your head off for suggesting that they were mates... Come to that I suspect that Tory Boy would do the same... well, he's making a habit of copying Eck :)

  9. Oldrightie

    Biggest tosser in the blogosphere twat Extraordinare!

    spare the rod well i wasnt (like many) spared the rod rained down on me like a winter storm.
    But it didn't make any difference just made me hard and mean surprising how can adjust to pain and the only answer is to raise the threshold..........
    bit like creating a maniac who later on pays you back.


    we have Tory dominated capitalist society from this all evil flows
    you only have to look at oldrightie to see the truth of this.

    To be honest looking around this nation and what the future under the scum Torys domination(the snp =Tory) hold(especially for the young) getting drunk seems to make perfect sense

    Sally Jupiter: I'm 67 years old. Every day, the future looks a little bit darker. But the past... even the grimy parts of it... keep on getting brighter.

    22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

  10. Well well Niko. Quotes from the Hebrew Bible, and a comic book... You never cease to amaze me.

    Don't think there's any call to be quite so rude to other contributors. OR is entitled to his point of view. You don't agree with it; I don't agree with it, but it's a point of view none the less.

    Now I notice that you equate the SNP with the Tories. Would you be forgetting that most of David Cameron's policies would have sat well with Tony Blair?

    I think you'll find that the Tories have a lot more in common with new labour than they do with the SNP.

    Finally, I'm happy to agree with you that beating people into submission, whether physically or mentally, only ever works on the most docile.

    Anyone with any spirit rebels.

  11. Re the continental drinking habits

    I have a mate in Madrid, but his family and hismwife comes from a VERY religious rural area

    The guys there think you aren't a man unless you are getting ripped off your tits at any opportunity.

    Sound familiar?

  12. Corporal punishment doesn't work especially with the younger members of society who deliberately stretch the boundaries as that is what learning is all about. Got regularly caned for smoking in school as I actually enjoy a smoke as I am addicted just like a majority of obese people are addicted to food for differing reasons.

    The traders on the markets are addicted to the adrenalin rushes of making loadsa dosh and I believe recreational drugs. Bankers are just greedy and power hungry which is just another addiction, mind you corporate punishment might be our only solution for this group as they are missing consciences in any form.

    Your car is here Niko.

  13. tris

    (The gentle and ever so kind)

    Oldrigthie hasn't got a point of view he's got a psychosis.
    as for snp vs torys we will see! who is right and who will eat humble pie ever so umble! pie sir!.


    your post disturbed me so much i went and turned the heating up a notch the thought of you sitting like an icicle brought a tear to me eye(I note tris didn't say any words of comfort to you although he threw himself in front of me onslaught against Oldrightie Umm! one wonders but i digress)

    One can only say once your Wimun returns from poland perhaps she will let you put your cold feet on her.


    poor Gedguy!

  14. Awwww poor wee Niko. Did I have a go at you?

    Actually I did sympathise with Gedguy. I said it was one room for me too. I'm just as poor as he is.

    Still you rich Labour Party people can usually afford heat. Strange, I've noticed that. I think you entice young innocent nationalists into your lairs with promises of conversion to the cause and then burn them instead of heating oil.

    It's the kind of thing Tony Blair would love. And that wicked Brown man too.

  15. Yes Anon. Very familiar.

    What's big and touch about being unable to stand up is kinda beyond me, but there ya go...

  16. Corporate Corporal Punishment for the bankers... Oh yes, CH, I volunteer to be at the other end of the strap.

    But Cameron just elevates them to the lards.

    Idiot. He'll get what's coming to him some time.

    Talking of that buffoon, I see we are all to cheer up. It's a great year for Britain. It will make us all proud and patriotic. Britain is going to win millions of medals. The Queen's jubilee is going to be the greatest event ever (despite having to be crushed into the first 5 months of the year so that Cameron can play host to the world's greatest athletic show.

    Are you ready for it to cheer you even though you have lost your job and your home; been pulled off Incapacity Benefit by some half trained junior paramedic even though you're at death's door; been forced to do Big Society crap you don't want to do?

    I am, secure in the knowledge that our great English leader "gets it".


  17. I am going to change my name to 'Zola Budd' then I can claim zitizanschitt for GB team. I picked/pinched my spelling from Gedguy

  18. Niko,

    I wasn't looking for sympathy; just donations towards the heating bills but I should have guessed that I would have got sweet FA off a leftie. Never mind though, I know you lefties like to keep all the money for yourselves and to hell with the proletariat. So, to quote Charlie drake: "What about the workers!"

  19. Aye righty ho Zola... (funny name for a bloke, but...) We'll try to remember.

  20. Niko ...a leftie? I should think not. He's New Labour. Damn all lefty about them.

  21. As someone who believes in restoring corporal punishment ... I WANT to also volunteer apply it to the bankers!

    FINALLY ... my views on corporal punishment vis-a-vis re-education are mainstream and a popular application!

  22. I was first with the bankers.

    (Nothing kinky by the way. Just plain good old fashioned hatred.)

    I'm not keen on handing back the right to teachers to hit kids. If they did it outside of school to a grown up, they would be done for assault.

    Why it would be right to teach a child that if he's not satisfied with something the right way to deal with it is to hit out, I'll never know.

    And whilst a light slap from from a sensible and sober, no drugged parent, might be a not to bad thing, you have to remember that there are a lot of parents who are not sensible, sober or sentient most of the time.

  23. Liberal Conspiracy, a haven for Blairites, decries such measures as anti-Liberty

    Labour would rather than people are drunk and insensible, all the better to be less trouble to handle

  24. So, what would you do Anon? What is your solution? Do you agree with the government's proposals?

  25. I have spent all my working life in the booze business in a few its forms.

    Mt subjective view is that

    people drink.

    They drink for many reasons almost all of which are psychosomatically linked their existence. That sound big winded but basically booze is a socially acceptable method relieving stress and compensation for perceived personal failings.

    On the other hand it does give us good company, craic and the possibility to right the World's wrongs.

    Handled responsibly, a happy medium can be achieved for most, but for some that is not possible.

    Where and what that limit is, is a matter of personal experimentation and realisation. Therein lies the problem.

    For all of us, that thin red line is defined societally from family though to the greater society which we inhabit; however we we define that.

    To put up the price, in my experience does not stop those for which the relief that alcohol offers, is important. They will find a way through this by way of smuggling, home production or theft.

    So pricing can only really be used as a pretty restricted tool against those embarking on their own odyssey, not on the card carrying members.

    It can only be tackled from the young ones feeding in.

    All direction must be given to our youngsters and at the same time we must facilitate those older, out of control, users can take control of their lives.

    Incidentally, not once have I heard in all this debate this one question.

    "Why do people drink so much, what is wrong with their reality"

  26. "Why do people drink so much, what is wrong with their reality"

    Yanomamo Indians

    People have used drugs from time immemorial and its just that our lifestyle or 'civilisation' have lost our roots and are promoting drugs/alcohol as a form of wealth creation for the few.

  27. I worked within the booze industry for a good few years during studenthood, ranging from bar work to being on the doors. These experiences, a good few of them violent, have brought me to the conclusion that minimum pricing will do nothing to stem the tide of shame on our streets. Even as a preventative measure for youngsters coming on to the drink scene I see little benefit.

    Those most likely to crown a fellow parton with a pint tumbler for no apparent reason, proceed to snort £50 of coke in the the boozer toilets, before topping the night off by verbally abusing the entire taxi que home are not poverty stricken disenfranchised unfortunates.

    Experience tells me that said bams (you know them to look at, pink cashmere sweater brigade) regularly lift at least a tonne of Sterling from the nearest ATM before proceeding to "get mad with it". The other part of their disposable wage that week most likely burned on a pair of Gucci slip-on's.

    The point of this is to illustate the blunt edge of minimum pricing. Mr Cashmere Gucci will easily have enough in his wallet to cover the extra £1 per pint or £5 on his bottle of tonic for the tanking-up phase of the evening.

    This has become a cultural issue that we cannot price our way out of. If anything increased prices will cause the problem to escalate as being able to afford an expensive night out on the town will be seen as a status symbol to be craved just like the Gucci shoes.

    A ten year hearts and minds campaign is required as it will take at least a decade to see ANY progress due to the current extent of the problem.

  28. Good points Wolfie:

    And I suspect I agree. You can put up the price a little, and all that will happen is that people will spend a little more. An extra £5 on a £40 night out isn't a whole hill of beans.

    Or you can put up the price a lot, which is what they did say in Iceland and Norway. Wow, did you ever see the price of drink there!

    People probably do smuggle. In Finland they have booze cruises to one of the Baltic states, and because they are all EU, if you paid the tax in Latvia, they can't charge you Finnish tax.

    For a while they banned alcohol in Iceland unless you were having a meal, but I suspect that people probably made their own, as you suggested.

    I think you have it. Why do we drink so much? Why when we start do we have to get blotto. The French drink a lot too, but you rarely see them gaga with it.

    It's not political. Or not entirely. Because it's the same all round the northern part of the world. And in countries where surveys show high levels of satisfaction with life in general and high levels of good health...

    The French hate their president, and they are permanently sick of their politics, but they love their lives which are far more laid back than ours... bon vin, bon pain, bon fromage... bonne siesta. Bonne vie!

    Maybe we should stop the American lifestyle and settle for something more continental?

  29. Well maybe, but in most of Europe, they use them more sensibly than we are doing here.

    People still wind down with a glass of wine, or two or three... but I can't remember the last time I had to pick my way through vomit and kebab and broken bottles in a French town on a Sunday morning.

    (Maybe their cleaning services are better than ours LOL?)

  30. Anon: I'm not denying that the Yahoos (the likes of Cameron, Osborne, Johnston, etc) are responsible for a lot of consumption.

    The truth is that most of them will go into Daddy's bank, or the law practice and settle down to middle class drinking, which is probably too high, but generally carried out in their own, or friends' homes, and in any case probably doesn't cost the NHS that much because they'll be Bupa, or something like it.

    But in a largely working class town like Dundee, with vast expanses of run down tenements and ex council housing, there is a limited call for Gucci.

    That said, I'm inclined to agree with your hearts and minds theory.

    Twenty or thirty years ago many people had a drink and drove home. Now I think they don't. Drink driving seems to be the kind of thing than no one would brag about doing and your mates or your girlfriend would dob you in for doing.

    We need to look at the campaigns that were used back then, to see what it was in them that changed people's attitudes.

    We need to be able to frown on someone who says that they can't remember anything about last night... who they were with, how they got home, who they had sex with...

    Given how much people care about how they look, we need to show them how revolting they look when they are legless; how it makes them look old and wrinkled, how it will make them old and fat long before their time.

    Pick people's vulnerable points: kids, looks, money,....etc..... and play on them.

    If we can change people's attitudes to drunk drivers... and so the habit itself, then we can change the booze consumption too... or maybe?

  31. Just wanted to say how fantastic it is to read all these positive comments on a subject which normally only attracts negative ones.


  32. Toulouse, in the centre, can be a bit wild on Sat night and most Spanish city centres, in Summer anyway, are a cacophony of sound all night long

  33. Oh That surprises me Wolfie.

    I remember being somewhere in Spain and hearing drunken revelry but it was English lads on the way back from the "pub".

    Maybe it's spreading like McDonalds and soon all over the world all there will be is golden arches, fat people, and drunks...

  34. As you know, I live not too far from Spain and used to go often, on business, the the NW of Spain, in and out of the Basque lands and then onto Jerez.

    At the week-ends, I had to change hotels to the cheaper ones on the outskirts of the cities, just to get a sleep.

    A sleep after taking a taxi in and out though, that evening.

  35. Fiesta....siesta

    Isn't that a song...?

    Och well, bang goes my theory that it's the cold dark climate that does it. Maybe just modern life is too awful for words and most people just can't bear it without some drug. Me, I just don't have much to do with it...

    But I have to say that in all the time I liven in Grenoble, I never saw a drunk on the streets, and I've not seen that many in Paris, and absolutely none in Geneva!!!! Perish the thought!