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Scottish football fans paying for “sins of their fathers” with booze ban

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Health secretary Shona Robison has said she will take a lot of persuading to lift the ban on alcohol at football matches.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has announced a consultation on alcohol sales at grounds, insisting today’s fans are paying for “the sins of their fathers’ or grandfathers’ generation”.

Ms Robison said it is “always good to consult public opinion”, but said removing the ban would be a backwards step in the Scottish Government’s wider efforts to reduce alcohol consumption.

“I would be very sceptical and concerned about the proposal,” she told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

She said it could put further pressure on accident and emergency departments, which are already under strain and have exposed her to criticism by Labour in recent months.

Labour plans to designate only a certain number of games alcohol-free could also tie up police resources if clubs challenge a specific ban based on a police risk assessment, she said.

Ms Robison, a former sports secretary, acknowledged Scottish football has changed since the 1980s but said “horrendous scenes” at a recent football match demonstrate that there is still an unacceptable amount of violence.

Police made 37 arrests related to the Old Firm clash on February 1, including 19 in and around the stadium.

Ms Robison said: “Scotland has a difficult relationship with alcohol and our position has been to reduce alcohol consumption. I just think this goes in completely the wrong direction.”

She added: “I am not convinced we have seen the eradication of football-related violence. In fact I think we see it still far too much.”

She continued: “It’s always good to consult public opinion.
“I certainly would take a lot of persuading. I don’t think the arguments are solid, I think there are huge concerns.

“You have heard from Women’s Aid. Do we really want to increase, potentially, the number of domestic violence incidents?

“I just think we have enough opportunities to drink alcohol, do we really want to inject another hour-and-a-half into that?”

Mr Murphy denied an accusation by Les Gray, a former chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, that Labour is “electioneering” rather than demonstrating a genuine concern about fans’ enjoyment.

Mr Gray accused Labour and the Conservatives, who also support lifting the ban, of “chasing votes” ahead of the general election in May.

Mr Murphy said: “That’s a desperate attempt to turn a proper conversation about football and alcohol into an election issue.

“The fact is I have had this view for a very long time.

“This is about not stigmatising and treating Scottish football fans, uniquely, as if they are all potential hooligans.

“But in terms of the election, if all the Scottish Labour MPs are returned then I am confident David Cameron will lose his job because only the Scottish Labour Party is big enough and strong enough to take on David Cameron.

“A vote for any other party will give David Cameron a chance to hold on to power.”

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