All things you no doubt stood on a bar table and harangued everyone about in The Horseshoe in Glasgow (a crap run ashore if ever there was one) or indeed a bar in Helensburgh while you (volunteered) to serve in Faslane eh big fella, no hold on, you waited until the internet came along, a godsend to fannys like your good self where like all good electronic ******* you can spout your bigoted viewpoint via the keyboard anon, coward? who you? no, just a prick
At least when the Scots/England ding-dongs get going on here and on ARSSE its a good laugh, that is until you turn up with your misspelt, mong posts that prove how much of a boring bastard you really are, the type of guy who the rest of the mess would rather be duty than go ashore with. You are a tit of the highest order
While opium farmers in Afghanistan are bombed for spreading ruin, sellers of cheap drink reap profits
This is difficult to imagine, the world being how it is, but let's say you were pen pals with an Afghan poppy farmer and that one day he came to Britain and you took him on a jaunt to Devon, to show him the best of England's countryside. Together you eat cream teas and watch the ponies trot across Dartmoor. Then one morning you drive down the Dart valley to Buckfast Abbey, which (according to the abbey's audio-visual centre) was founded during the reign of King Cnut in 1018 by a religious fraternity who sensed that the beauty of this spot "made it a place where God might easily be found". Sunshine dapples old stone. A river ripples under the trees. Being a devout Muslim and fond of spiritual brotherhoods, your friend is impressed. Being a farmer, he has some shrewd questions. All these lovely buildings, all this well-tended land: who's paying? Where does the money come from?
You mention honey from the abbey's bees, revenue from tourists and pilgrims and (a wild guess) subsidy from the Vatican. And then there's the wine. Alcohol! Your friend pricks up his ears. What kind of wine? Buckfast Tonic wine. What is tonic wine? A wine that used to be popular with the sick, but of no known medical benefit: the monks at Buckfast import red wine from France and then add emulsifiers, stabilisers, caffeine and artificial vanilla. This is an ancient tradition? No, no, it was first made at Buckfast in the late 19th century, around the time of the second Afghan war when the British army occupied Kabul and opium exports from British India still figured in the balance of trade. The recipe has changed since, however, to make it sweeter. How is it to the taste? Sickly (you make a face). Nobody is buying it then? On the contrary, more people are buying than ever before. Why â€¦?
Tiring of your Socratic role, you take your friend through some recent British social history, refusing interruptions. The industrial wipeout and the destruction of values based around family, work, community and faith; the binge drinking, the alcopops, the crime; the pavements spattered with vomit on a weekend night. All these things are general, but among the young and poor in one particular part of the country they reach an extreme. In the western lowlands of Scotland, Buckfast has found its biggest and fastest-growing market. Children and young people love it. A big bottle costs a fiver and 15% of the volume is alcohol. They give it various names â€“ "Cumbernauld Rocket Fuel", "Wreck-the-Hoose Juice" â€“ but plain "Buckie" is the most common. Some reports say that Buckfast Abbey sells 60% of its wine to Scotland.
"Feral" is how the kids who drink it are often described. On some housing schemes, empty bottles litter the gutters. Sometimes a half-sized one will peep out of a young girl's handbag. A third of all 13-year-olds in Scotland, according to surveys, get drunk at least once a month. Across Britain's whole population, in terms of morbidity, lost productivity, police and emergency services, healthcare and crime, alcohol-related harm costs â€¦
Your Afghan friend can no longer restrain himself: "Why don't they ban it?"
You tell him that calls for a ban have been made. Four years ago, Scotland grew so perturbed about Buckfast's effects that former justice minister Cathy Jamieson began a campaign to restrict its sale, with the implication that otherwise she might seek total prohibition. Unfortunately, she made her appeal on live television from a street in her west of Scotland constituency, where she was surrounded by youths chanting "Don't ban Buckie". Sales subsequently â€“ perhaps consequently â€“ rose. The monks began to plan a much bigger new winery. Their position was summarised by a spokesman for Buckfast's distributing company: "The responsibility to behave properly and drink within reason lies with the drinker, not the drink". In other words, the mantra of the National Rifle Association: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
The mention of guns brings a memory of the poppy fields that your friend is neglecting at home. "Why don't they just send a few ground-attack aircraft to bomb the abbey? There are, of course, all kinds of answers to that. Illegality, improper restraint of trade, tonic wine a far cry from heroin, a dangerous analogy, not the behaviour of a civilised country, and so forth and so on: but as these words pour out you can sense a certain scepticism in your listener, who is being punished for human ruin when tobacco farmers and liquor conglomerates â€“ and little communities of Benedictine monks â€“ go scot free.
None of this will be easily changed. This week's report by the British Medical Association (BMA) calling for alcohol advertising to be banned met a largely lukewarm political response as well, of course, as condescension from the British drinks industry (which argued, unbelievably, that advertising merely induces drinkers to switch brands). Buckfast, in fact, knocks a small hole in the BMA's case: it hasn't advertised since it withdrew its claim, long ago, that three small glasses a day gave you "lively blood". However, the BMA's proposals go far beyond an advertising ban. The report calls for the setting of minimum price levels, shorter licensing hours, higher taxes, and, not least, the prohibition of any drinks that "either appeal to young people more than adults, or are particularly associated with problematic drinking". Buckfast wine surely fits into that category, though the legal difficulty of banning a substance no more alcoholic than sherry would be formidable.
Socially, medically, culturally, financially, the BMA's case looks solid and it might be wrong to be pessimistic about the possibility of change; smoking, after all, has been seen off as a public act with hardly a whimper. But making it more expensive, restricting access to it, banning some of its brands, all these moves would go against the libertarian shibboleths of the past 30 years. To succeed, they would need a popular clamour that supported the legislation.
It may come. It has happened before. My father signed the pledge when he was a teenager and at home I keep his certificate from the Band of Hope, decorated with Biblical scenes and the legend "Look not upon the wine when it is red â€¦" By 1930, 3 million others had done the same in an age when teetotalism was part of Scotland's fabric. But we should also consider how Scotland was doing its best to destroy American prohibition at the same time. Scottish whisky magnates, determined to keep their most valuable export market, used smugglers based on Caribbean islands to get millions of gallons into the hands of American criminal gangs. In the words of the Edinburgh writer George Rosie, men with knighthoods "evolved a system that any present-day cocaine dealer would recognise". Scotland: the Afghanistan of 1925 â€“ distilleries rather than poppy fields, but just as morally complicated.
No doubt because of the Taxes raised from sales of said drinks are desperately needed by our government to prop up our ailing economy, but that would be me being a bit cynical. Then again there's always the argument about who actually run's the country the elected politicians or the CEO's of the big companies!
Still considering most of the saleâ€™s of this stuff is generated in Scotland keep on selling it I say let them all drink themselves in to the gutter come independence it wont be our problem anymore.