A consultation paper has been floated by the Scottish Government, suggesting that alcohol-related branding be banned entirely, writes Scott Begbie.
Hang on to your pints, folks – there’s a puritanical storm brewing in the heart of Holyrood.
To be precise, hang on to your glass if it has a logo or branding on it, be it one of those big red T things, or a stylish wee distillery crest.
Because, right now, a consultation paper has been floated by the Scottish Government, suggesting alcohol-related branding be banned from glasses – oh, and from hats and T-shirts, and other bits and bobs, too.
Half my wardrobe would have to be handed in as contraband, from beer festival T-shirts to my collection of bobble hats with brewery names on them – up to and including Mount Begbie Brewery in Canada. And I’ll need to buy new tumblers to drink from, since virtually every beer and whisky glass in our house has some logo or name embossed on it.
However, this suggestion is no laughing matter. Not when you consider the wider ramifications for Scotland’s drinks industry.
Every single brewer in this country has merchandise that boasts their product. It’s a vital revenue stream, and a way to promote their business.
Then there is the whisky industry – that wee, multimillion pound, world-renowned platform that does so much of the heavy lifting for our vital tourism industry. People come to Scotland from across the globe so they can make a pilgrimage to distilleries, to see how whisky is made, and come away with a memento.
So, no more Glencairn glass souvenirs, not a branded T-shirt, hoodie or keyring to be had, suggests this paper.
All you would leave with is a lingering feeling that Scotland is ashamed of an iconic product that is the absolute envy of the world. And that’s just daft.
Let’s completely caw the legs from under our drinks industry
The daftness doesn’t end there. After all, this consultation contains the pearl of wisdom that, without marketing, alcohol products are “essentially variations of the same thing”.
All beers are the same, and all whiskies are the same? Right, so those generations of skill, care and expertise were a waste of time then.
Sure, there is good and necessary intent here. Scotland’s record on alcohol-related problems is abysmal
The consultation paper has other suggestions, too, such as shops putting alcohol in closed cupboards or behind counters in the same way as cigarettes. Oh, and ending alcohol-related sponsorship in sport and of major events.
And say cheerio to alcohol advertising, as well. Drinking must not be made to look fun or cool.
So, let’s just completely caw the legs from under our drinks industry, and give it a good kicking for its cheek.
Why shame our entire drinks industry?
Sure, there is good and necessary intent here. Scotland’s record on alcohol-related problems is abysmal. The toll of lives ruined and lost is appalling. That needs to change.
But this consultation paper ignores the fact that alcohol is woven into the cultural and social life of Scotland – and it’s not all bad.
Let’s face it, most of us have a drink because we enjoy it. We look forward to catching up with our mates at the pub. We like savouring a tasty beer or a good dram or an excellent wine.
A glass of something fine is one of life’s joys, and most of us can enjoy that responsibly. Sadly, many can’t.
Surely the way forward is information, education and encouragement for individuals at risk to make better lifestyle choices? That has to be better than shouting “shame” at our entire drinks industry, hobbling it, and forcing the whole shebang into hiding.
Scott Begbie is entertainment editor for The Press & Journal and Evening Express