I’m not usually looking for booze before 10 AM.
But, this past Saturday we were invited to dinner by some friends. It’s customary to bring a gift to a dinner party: flowers or a tipple or both. I was at the grocery at 9:30 AM to buy sausages for Johnny’s fourth birthday breakfast and decided to pick up some bottles of ale while I was there.
I was a bit frustrated to find the liquor aisles roped off. One of the clerks informed me of the new law here in Scotland. Alcohol is only sold between the hours of 10 AM and 10 PM; if I wanted to buy something I’d need to wait another twenty minutes.
I had an appointment so I couldn’t wait.
Drink is indeed a problem here in Scotland; it is a problem everywhere. It always has been and it likely always will be. This new regulation is the government’s effort to slow things down a bit.
Later in the evening I shared this story with our friends.
“Oh that’s right. You know they’ve rescheduled the times for football matches (soccer games) in Scotland. Not too long ago there was an “Old Firm” game (a long standing rivalry between the Rangers and Celtic that is not only a battle between two of Scotland’s preeminent teams, but symbolic of the historic sectarian divide between Protestants and Catholics). The game was set for 3 PM on a Sunday afternoon. That gave the crowd plenty of time to get liquored up before the game. It was disastrous, a real nightmare. Now they schedule the game for 12:30. It keeps people from buying a bottle of vodka or guzzling eight pints before the game.”
Recent data on alcohol consumption puts Scotland near the top of the European league with 11.8 litres consumed annually by every person 16 and over; 12.2 litres for everyone over 18.
Scotland’s pure alcohol per capita figure of 11.8 litres is equivalent to 570 pints of 4 per cent beer, nearly 500 pints of strong 5 per cent lager, 42 bottles of vodka or 125 bottles of wine – enough for every single adult to exceed the sensible drinking guidelines for men of 21 units every week of the year.
Scotland’s figure is higher than nearly every other country in Western Europe, including Spain (11.7 litres), France (11.4 litres) and Italy (8.0 litres).
It is more than double the consumption level in Scandinavian countries like Sweden (6.0 litres) and Norway (5.5 litres) where the relative price of alcohol is considerably higher and the sale of alcohol is more restricted.
It was also much higher than the United States (8.6 litres), Canada (7.8 litres), Australia (9.0 litres), China (5.2 litres) Japan (7.6 litres) and even Russia (10.3 litres), where alcohol-related deaths have cut the average life expectancy for men to 59. (Data released by The Scottish Government)
It’s nice to be the best at something, but I’m not sure if this is anything to brag about.
Experts attribute the rise in alcohol consumption to the drop in alcohol prices which have fallen 70% since 1980.
It’s frustrating to be caught up in the net of government imposed responsibility. I was indeed buying alcohol before 10 AM, but I wasn’t planning to finish it before noon. In fact, I wasn’t planning to drink any of it; it was a gift.
But, when I came back to the grocery after my appointment I realized that the law might not be such a bad idea. There was a couple of yobs (punks) chasing a can of Budweiser as it rolled through the aisle of the store. Both of them had their arms full of beer and so the wayward can was proving a real challenge.
Expecting a little chatty banter, I said to them, “You’d better not let that one get away!”
They were incoherent, blootered, steamin’, pissed, besotted, and they slurred a monosyllabic oath in response. It’s likely they’d been up all night and had worked hard to reach their fevered state of inebriation. Who knows how long they’d waited for “reinforcements.”
I prayed they weren’t headed to a football match, and that I wouldn’t meet them on the road.
Then I turned my back and hurried to the liquor aisle, relieved to find that the ropes had been lifted.