Like most teenagers, I was an underage drinker. And like most underage drinkers, I got hold of booze in three ways: I smuggled out spirits from the drinks cupboard, I got an older teenager to go into the off-licence and get it for me, or I simply went into the offy myself and bought the booze from a seller who didn’t give a toss whether or not I was old enough to drink.
When you’re an underage drinker, the choice of drink comes down to one thing and one thing only: how pissed it can get you and how quickly. So horrible cider and fortified wines are the drinks of choice, and from what I can see of the current lot of piss-heads shouting and bawling their way around Glasgow city centre on a Friday night, nothing’s changed.
When you stop being an underage drinker, your relationship with booze changes slightly – as in, you’re less inclined to drink paint in the hope it’ll get you plastered. But judging by the howling morons in Sauchiehall Street, price still isn’t a factor. If it were, the hideous booze factories where the barely legal get utterly blasted on overpriced bottled beers and Bacardi Breezers would have gone out of business a long time ago.
So I’m a bit baffled by the Scottish Justice Minister’s plans to curb supermarket booze promotions. I can see why the licensed trade thinks a curb on supermarkets is a good idea – they’re getting stuffed because people are, quite rightly, staying at home instead of paying £3-odd for a pint; it’s cheaper to drink petrol than beer these days – but I genuinely don’t see how making booze slightly more expensive is going to do a single damn thing to change Scotland’s dysfunctional relationship with booze.
Our relationship with drink is a cultural thing, not a financial thing. How will a minor price increase change that?