Monday 29 March 2004

Smoke, drink and law 'n' order

Tourism is said to be our biggest industry. Guests in Scotland enjoy visiting our traditional pubs and taking in the atmosphere. Sometimes that atmosphere is smoky. If you don't like it, go elsewhere. And I say that as a non-smoker.

I even spotted a few delegates from the Democrats Abroad conference in a smoky Edinburgh pub on Saturday. Hey, all those American liberals (sic) were probably really in town to enjoy a sly cigarette, now that they're illegal in so many bars in the land of the free. Just like in Ireland for goodness sake.

And are the Scottish "authorities" planning to take advantage of these spreading bans?

Not quite:

While the number of smoke-free areas in public places has increased, only 11 per cent of businesses in the food and entertainment sector have complied with all four of the voluntary charter's requirements, while seven out of ten pubs allow smoking on their premises. Nothing has been ruled in or out. Legislation is clearly an option to help improve this, and we will consider an extension of the voluntary approach.
And as if that's not enough the Scottish health fanatics have further plans:
VICTIMS of violent drunks should be allowed to sue pub owners for instigating alcohol-fuelled attacks, police and industry figures said yesterday.
No one expects the police to quaintly give priority to catching criminals. How much better to recommend that victims sue publicans. But what's this about "industry figures"? It turns out that the "industry figure" who seems to be in favour of this proposal doesn't actually operate a bar. He is a lawyer who specialises in licensing matters. It's one thing to be called to the bar, but it's rather more difficult to run one.

Here's some common sense:

Mairi Clark, editor of MA Scotland, the trade newspaper for pubs and clubs in Scotland, said the concept of server liability may cause controversy.

She said: "It is perfectly possible that victims of attacks could sue the pub and clubs where it took place. Server liability could be a bit of a prickly subject as there is only so much that pub and club owners can do."

Damned right. This would cause controversy. How much simpler to go back to first principles: the police catch the criminals; the victims sue the criminals; the publicans get on with running a business - smoky or otherwise.