A newspaper article from the future.

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The following fell into my lap through some kind of wormhole in the space-time continuum. It claims to be an article from the Scotsman, dated Friday 3 October, two days from now.

kennymacaskillsad.jpgThumbnail image for kennymacaskillsad.jpg

The Scottish Parliament yesterday delivered a stinging rebuke to the SNP administration on their plans to ban under-21s from Scotland's off licences. Despite passionate pleas from the Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill, a Tory motion rejecting the plans was passed with support from all three other opposition parties.

Tthe Conservatives' spokesman Murdo Fraser said: "We all accept that Scotland's communities do indeed face problems with violence and disorder related to alcohol abuse. However, this hare-brained scheme from the SNP would fail to deal with those issues while simultaneously creating a whole new set of problems."

Defending the proposals, Kenny Macaskill urged Holyrood to consider the "extraordinary benefits to communities" that trial programmes have led to in West Lothian, Fife, and Central Scotland, brushing aside concerns about the evidence from those trials. He said: "Other parties oppose these plans, but have nothing to put in their place. If they fail to back us, they will face the judgement of the people of Scotland."

Speaking for Labour, Richard Baker, a former student president, said: "The real problem with licencing is the failure to implement existing legislation effectively, and whatever the question is, criminalising increasing numbers of young people is the wrong answer."

Green MSP Patrick Harvie described the move as "a misguided and ill-conceived idea, designed to get headlines rather than to find solutions", and urged the SNP to look instead at local measures based on the Local Licencing Forums introduced in 2005.

Long before the vote was taken it was clear that the Parliament would reject the Scottish Government's proposals. SNP backbenchers rose one after another to condemn the opposition parties as irresponsible and isolated from their electorate, with their attacks becoming increasingly shrill and combative, but in the end the motion passed by 80 votes to 47, with one abstention.

Welcoming the vote, Tom French, coordinator of the Coalition Against Raising the Drinking Age in Scotland (CARDAS), said: "This vote has to be the death knell of this profoundly illiberal and disproportionate proposals. Students and young people across the country will be, in a responsible manner, raising a glass to the sensible majority in Parliament."


Kenny Macaskill is himself no stranger to drunk and disorderly allegations, having spent the 2000 England-Scotland match in a police cell, but has since repositioned himself as the scourge of alcohol-related disorder.

With his populist attacks on two-for-one deals, and his description of Tennents as "cooking lager", he has sought to claim ownership of on a issue which has long been neglected by politicians at local and national level.

The SNP administration believes this idea would resonate with communities with experience of the misery caused by drunken young people. However, it came with a clear price tag - it's hard to imagine a policy more likely to upset student activists and other young voters.

This is the real reason Parliament has called time on the SNP proposals, which seemed inevitable once concerns about the methodology behind their pilot projects had been raised. Whatever Ministers say, Scotland's 18-21 year olds can be assured that their freedom to drink is safe for now.

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This page was published on October 1, 2008 4:52 PM.

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