|How long before drinking a delicious cool |
beer on a train is outlawed completely?
It seems like Scotland’s busybodies and window-twitchers have submitted an unexpectedly high number of responses asking for a ban. And ScotRail’s bosses have sensed an opportunity to curry favour with the neo-prohibitionist Scottish Government.
From July all ScotRail trains after 2100 and before 1000 will be declared as dry, and the consumption of alcohol on them will not be permitted. Drunk people may be refused passage (though who will be deemed to be drunk is still unclear).
Evidently a complete round-the-clock ban is still too politically sensitive and would look too much like the extremist measure it is. Too many “respectable” people would be affected by the banning of a dram of malt whisky on a trip to the Highlands. Not to mention the revenue that would be lost if ScotRail had to stop selling cans of crap beer at inflated prices on daytime trains.
But ScotRail clearly think they can get away with a ban at other times.
Late evening trains will not be safer as a result. Most drunk troublemakers are not any drunker than other perfectly peaceable passengers. They cause trouble because they’re arseholes, not because they’re drunk. But no politician is brave enough to say this. It’s easier for Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to blame the liquid rather than demand responsible behaviour from people who can’t handle their drink.
British Transport Police’s website still carries the statement “Alcohol brought on trains does not generally cause a problem. People being drunk before they travel does.” This sensible position appears to have been thrown overboard, with Supt Ellie Bird quoted as saying: “The consumption of alcohol is prohibited on other forms of public transport, such as buses, and trains should be no different.”
What’s more, a ban before 10am is a solution in search of a problem. I’ve never encountered rowdiness on an early morning train. Neds aren’t awake by 10, never mind on trains supping lager.
But a ban at that time is politically possible and will meet little resistance. What reasonable person would want to be drinking at that time in the morning anyway? Well, nobody except alcoholics, obviously. Unless you’re coming home from night shift, or on holiday, in which case, tough. ScotRail will push this through with the backing of all those whose thinking goes along the lines “I don’t have any desire to do something, so nobody else should be allowed to do it either.”
Shamefully, not a single one of the MSPs and MPs who responded spoke out in favour of allowing responsible drinking.
Let us be under no illusions. This is nothing to do with preventing drunk bams causing trouble. It is a politically motivated ban with the aim of further socially denormalising alcohol. I fully expect that within a couple of years, or even sooner, some report will appear “explaining” what a success the policy has been and recommending that it be extended into a complete ban around the clock.
The solution to drunks causing a nuisance on trains is, as has been pointed out for years, is to enforce the laws we already have. But this takes manpower which ScotRail are eager to eliminate – they have been attempting for years to do away with union agreements that insist on a guard, conductor or equivalent traveling on every train. Supposedly British Transport Police will enforce the ban. Wouldn’t they be better employed dealing with the few people actually causing trouble?
Much easier to inconvenience people enjoying an innocent and completely legitimate pleasure. Especially as it closes a loophole in public policy. Since the 1990s more and more local authorities have introduced bye-laws banning the consumption of alcohol in public spaces. The situation of being able to drink on a train – as was once the norm everywhere – now appears like an exception.
There are now very few places left in Scotland where it’s legal to enjoy an alcoholic beverage outside of licensed premises or your own home. Fine if you have a garden. Fine if you can afford to do your drinking in pubs. Fine if your horizons are so limited that you can only conceive of drinking in the context of downing eight pints on Friday night, or twelve cans in front of the TV.
That this compartmentalisation of alcohol consumption in fact reinforces Scotland’s hard-drinking culture rather than weaken it — this is something which our political class has completely failed to understand.