Spirit of the Fringe? Not after 9pm

Alan Anderson on ScotRail's 'draconian' alcohol ban

Glasgow is the great untapped market for Edinburgh Festival promoters.  Almost 2 million people live less than 50 minutes away in the Clydeside conurbation, but each year only small percentage of Glaswegians are aware that the world’s biggest arts festival is taking place in their capital city, let alone make it to the EdFringe.

Glasgow is renowned as a party city which attracts the biggest touring bands, comedians, plays and exhibitions. All the best Edinburgh Fringe shows come to Glasgow a couple of months after the festival, so why endure the hassle of travelling along the UK’s worst motorway for an evening’s entertainment?

Edinburgh car parking is an expensive complicated nightmare, the bus seems to take forever (for the past four years the road authorities have scheduled major roadworks on the M8 during the first two weeks of August) and as for the overpriced trains… well they stop too early in the evening, so you only get to see one show before having to rush back to Waverley station.

Is all that about to change?

It has just been announced that, for the first time ever during festival time, ScotRail will have late night-trains from Edinburgh to Glasgow, Stirling and Dundee. Glaswegians will also be able to buy and collect tickets for 2,500+ Edinburgh Fringe shows from a purpose-built ticket office at Glasgow’s Queen Street Station.

The Edinburgh Fringe has also spent a lot of money on a high profile marketing campaign in Glasgow, where almost every bus is plastered in adverts. These are wonderfully welcome initiatives that will hopefully increase the number of people who will make the 47-mile trip to Auld Reekie. 

Sadly it appears that all that hard work is about to be undone ScotRail’s latest shooting-themselves-in-the-foot initiative... an on-train alcohol ban between 9pm and 10am to come into force on July 20

More than any other city in the UK, most Glaswegians responsibly enjoy a good drink on their night out. If you’ve got to be in Edinburgh for the night you absolutely need to have a beer (or a Buckfast) en route. In order that you can endure the overcrowded streets filled with English student Yaahs thrusting flyers at you, you need a whisky or two to take the edge off and stop you hitting one of them.

Sadly with August’s massively inflated food and beverage prices and Nicola Sturgeon MSP’s ridiculous minimum alcohol pricing policy, many can’t afford to buy the weegie-prescribed amount of beer or spirits in Bristo Square. So to quench thirst prior to your return back to civilisation, Glaswegians buy a carryoot for the train. This is where the real trouble now starts.

The ban will prevent the sale and consumption of alcohol on ScotRail trains between 9pm and 10am. More worryingly the statement released by ScotRail states that ‘ScotRail will also refuse travel to people who are not considered fit to do so due to the effects of alcohol.’

 As regular commuter Fi McNabb commented on ScotRail’s Facebok page: ‘Surely this will be a subjective judgement? Who will make it? Responsible folk leave their cars at home if they go out for a meal/drink. I defy you to say you’ve never had one too many, but it’s comforting to know that you can get home safely, using public transport.

‘I believe that the safety of staff and other commuters is paramount. However this is sending out the wrong message, a message that may result in an increase in drink driving, perhaps? Quite irresponsible, really. But then again, with ticket prices proving more costly than taking the car, public transport is becoming less of an option for this member of the general public, anyway.’

ScotRail says the ban ‘comes in response to concerns from the travelling public about anti-social behaviour on trains and calls from the Scottish Government for action.’

That highlights the Scottish Government’as schizophrenic issues with Scotland’s alcohol production and consumption. First the SNP administration introduce an minimum pricing for alcohol policy, now they clamp down on the time of day a commuter can enjoy a drink. Strangely this ban allows drinking alcohol at 10.01am not the more socially acceptable time of 10.01pm.

Scotch whisky is Scotland’s largest export, annually generating over £3billion for HMRC. The Scottish Government frequently praise the burgeoning Scotch whisky industry and actively promote its expansion overseas. This contrasts with their continuing Calvanistic attitude towards Scots’ own ability to drink alcohol. If the SNP government do not think that Scots are grown up enough to independently control their own drinking habits, why on earth do they think they are competent enough to look after our own fiscal, political affairs as an independent country?

So once again the majority of responsible Scots who enjoy a social drink are being penalised by the irresponsible neddish minority. If there is a problem with antisocial behaviour is it not the responsibility of British Transport Police to arrest specific troublemakers rather than enforce draconian measures on the rest of society?

Fringe time could be boom time for ScotRail, their new timetable and ticket booths acknowledge this. Sadly this one single disproportionate act cancels out any festive spirit there might be for two million Glaswegians.

  • Alan Anderson and fellow Glaswegian comic Scott Agnew will be performing unauthorised 'guerrilla' comedy shows on the 2130 Glasgow to Edinburgh – in which free whisky will be doled out – and 2230 Edinburgh to Glasgow shows on July 19, the last night before the alcohol ban.
    • Published: 27 Jun 2012

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