I realize this violates the Scottish party’s basic human right to take matters into their own hands and makes it harder for the SNP to get another government, but the dossier doesn’t lie. I also assume that my values are undoubtedly the right ones and that it is therefore necessary to condemn and undermine anyone who does not share them. You have it in front of you, right?
If you still don’t believe me, let me bring you the latest evidence. You may recall that in 2020, during the pandemic, the Scottish Government banned alcohol on trains, apparently to help curb the spread of the virus. They said the rule was temporary, but then announced last summer that by “temporary” they meant “permanent” and the rule would remain in place. This confirms one of the inevitable features of politics: governments find it easy to make rules, but hard to break them.
To make matters worse, it has now emerged that in deciding to maintain the ban, the Scottish Government was far from acting on the evidence, in fact ignoring it: specifically the advice of UK Transport Police and Transport Scotland officials to approve the ban loosen . Then Transport Secretary Jenny Gilruth overruled both, and it was decided the rule would remain in place (with the exception of Mhairi “Tennents” Black, of course).
It’s hard to know where to really begin with such things, except that they obviously violate the principle – call it a value, if you will – that public policy should be based on evidence, not allegations. The Scottish Government seems to have moved to the position that the alcohol ban discourages anti-social behaviour, but there is no evidence to support this. Hop on any train from anywhere to anywhere last on Friday and you’ll see for yourself.
The other problem with this policy – and this is evident with other policies too – is that it runs counter to the cautious but sensible way in which many Scots do things. Undoubtedly there is a problem with some drunk people on trains, but it is disproportionate to overturn a right that is largely exercised without incident because someone occasionally abuses it (and it doesn’t just affect me if I want to have a drink on the train when I would like). too, although it is a bit).
We should apply the same proportionality test to other areas. For example, is it proportionate to suddenly punish people with older (usually poorer) cars instead of waiting for the cars to reach their natural end of life? And is it proportionate to penalize people with gas boilers rather than people with heat pumps (usually richer) rather than phasing out gas boilers at the end of their lives? I would have thought that enforcing policies that hit the less well-off the hardest would have gone against the SNP’s values.
The same kind of confusion exists with alcohol. The Institute for Economic Affairs has just said that there is no hard evidence for an alcohol advertising ban and that it can still happen. According to Public Health Scotland, floor prices have a limited impact on the most harmful drinkers and could still be extended. We also learned this week that the number of problem drinkers using alcohol treatment services has decreased. What exactly is the government trying to do here?
Perhaps it would be helpful if the SNP explained more clearly what its values actually are. Or how about simply basing their policies on the most important value of all: common sense? Perhaps this is how we would introduce a bottle deposit system if the rest of the UK does. Perhaps that way we would target alcohol policy to the people who are struggling the most. And maybe that would end a disproportionate ban on alcohol and allow people to have a drink on the train if they wanted to. let’s do that, shall we?