We all know that Alex Salmond is a miracle worker, but last week he surpassed even himself. He managed to get students up early enough to go to nine o’clock lectures. Admittedly they were up at the crack to lobby parliament against banning alcohol sales to under 21 year olds, but at least it was a start. Perhaps the Scottish government should propose banning sales of pot noodles or mobile phone ring tones. It would be a revolution in student behaviour, a new dawn of higher education.
The Scottish Government’s plan to come between the Scottish teenager and his bottle has won few supporters. Libdem, Tories, Labour, Greens - even Margo MacDonald - agree that banning off licence drink sales to under 21s is a violation of human rights. A unique and historic political consensus has been forged in Holyrood. They may not have been able to unite in defence of the Union, but when it comes to alcohol, the opposition parties are shoulder to shoulder at the bar of public opinion.
“It would be a ludicrous situation”, thundered the Tory spokesman, Murdo Fraser, during last week’s debate, “when a 20 year old soldier back from Iraq or Afghanistan cannot buy a bottle of champagne from an off-license to celebrate his safe return with his wife”. This conjured an image of battle-hardened squaddies roaring around Buchanan St waving bottles of Heidsieck and Mumm. Clearly Murdo knows some pretty well-heeled sodjers.
The point is taken, though. What does the SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill think he's doing trying to stop young adults who can vote, fight and marry being able to buy a six pack in Tescos? Especially when they can legally blow the housekeeping getting rat-arsed in the pub next door. Perhaps a lot of SNP supporters are publicans and this is a fund-raising project. The Nats say that pilots in Larbert, Stenhousemuir, Armadale and Cupar showed a reduction in crime, but they would wouldn’t they. They’ve probably got nothing better to do there than go to the pub and drown their sorrows.
Clearly the SNP think it will show them to be tough on neds and tough on the causes of neds. Kenny MacAskill tore into the Tories for having “moved from Cameron hugging a hoodie to Murdo Fraser’s free bottle of Buckie”. Tories giving away free tonic wine! Now, that’s the way to win the youth vote. Another MSP helpfully pointed out that in Inverness offys they’re knocking £2 off a bottle of Buckfast if you buy two. Now they were talking.
MSPs rejected the alcohol sales limit in the Tory-sponsored debate by a wide margin - and then knocked off to the pub for a post-match analysis.