Friday, 12 March 2010


Hurrah, it’s Friday. Let’s go for a couple of swallies down the pub.

As students in Scotland, it was always a to spot the Norwegian student’s’ll be the one with the most alcohol sitting on the window-sill.

It’s not even funny, is it? And what’s more, it’s a bit rich coming from a Scot. The image of the drunken Scotsman is well-established, and seems to be permanent. If you happen to be from Glasgow, like me, it is assumed you must be related to Rab C. Nesbitt. It’s hilarious, but it’s also troubling and saddening.

I am sitting here in Norway with a glass of tap water and watching the Scottish Parliament wring its collective hands over whether or not to increase the price of alcohol in Scotland. From here, the sight is surreal. The arguments against price increases are strong. Surely alcohol costs enough already? And there’s a recession so a price increase would cause job losses, brewing and distilling are vital to our economy, pubs will suffer even more, and then the city centres won’t thrive. And the middle classes won’t like it because of course they only drink in moderation, don’t they?

Och well, if we can’t raise the price we’ll just add to the taxpayer’s burden instead. And anyway, they can get statistics to say anything they like, can’t they?

So I looked at a bunch of stats. Hold onto your hats,’s enough to drive you to drink. A 2008 Scottish Government paper on alcohol concluded that the estimated indicative total cost to Scottish society of alcohol misuse in 2006/7 was approximately £2.25 billion. Meanwhile, another study discovered that in 2006/7 an estimated 111,200 GP consultations concerned alcohol misuse, a contact rate of 20.6 per 1000 population. And there was more....we Scots drink 25% more alcohol than people in England and Wales, and we are 8th in the world for alcohol consumption per head of population. Just a wee cocktail of random facts.

Well, it’s Friday, so let’s go down the boozer for a few swift ones while we discuss this a little further. Anyone care to tag along?

Scotland: aye, sure, I’ll be there. I really fancy gettin’ absolutely blootered the night. I deserve it.

Norway: maybe some of us might look in for a moment. But we’re all quite busy and we were there last week too, so it won’t be for long.

Scotland: I’ll buy the first round.

Norway: we always get our own.

Scotland: mine’s a pint, so that’ll be about £3.80 if we’re talking Aberdeen, a wee bit less in Glasgow.

Norway: I’d like a beer, one 0.4 litre beer, so that will be 68 Norwegian kroner, which is, with the current exchange rate, £8.

Scotland: Allow me, it’s nae bother, that was a round for 5’s a twenty pound note.

Norway: I met this hilarious Scottish guy in here once...he’d just arrived in this country, so we let him buy the drinks....150 quid later and he was cancelling his holidays. Funny...haven’t seen him since.

Scotland: How many’s that? Well, I reckon I’ve had about 5 by now....but I can squeeze in a few more. Line them up, man.

Norway: I’ve had two, so if I have any more I can’t drive in the morning.

Scotland: Fancy joining me for the footie tomorrow? I’ll have the car so I’ll pick you up nice and early so we can get a few bevvies in before the kick-off.

Now I’m not saying the Norwegians don’t like alcohol...they love it just as much as any Scot. Nor am I saying all Scots are a bunch of uncaring alchies (the last Speaker in the House of Commons, after-all, was a tee-total Scotsman). But as the Scottish Government debates this pricing issue, I just can’t help noticing that Norwegians think about drink in a far more calculating manner. With controlled availability and far more stringent drink-driving laws, they seem to be genuinely scared of the cost and the consequences.

At least until they go abroad.


  1. Great blog! I really like your balance of humour and serious points – keep it up!

    The legal driving alcohol limit in Norway is 20mg/l compared to 80 mg/l in Scotland. I believe there is also a mandatory prison sentence for all drink drivers in Norway together with the loss at least months gross salary, in addition to any driving ban imposed. The driving licence is taken by the police at the scene – hence the ban begins immediately for more serious speeding offences. Obviously drunk drivers aren’t allowed to continue home either side of the North Sea. People are right to be “genuinely scared” of the consequences. It is interesting to imagine this bill being passed in the Scottish Parliament, with a complimentary and extensive, prison building program.

    The middle classes in Scotland aren’t affected by the £60 speeding tickets. In Norway fines are based on salary. The record, I believe was an £85,000 speeding ticket for a wealthy Oslo business man. Another interesting bill to test the Scottish Parliament: salary-based speeding fines.

    I sense there are several more blogs to come on this issue – not least the starkest contrast of all: alcohol-induced violence, which is virtually absent in Norway and virtually endemic in Scotland.

    Time for a pint! God Helg!

    Norman Scott

  2. Jane I always enjoy your blog and your topics, I shall just pop open a bottle of fizzy white while pondering and debating the points with Hugo later this evening! Love from Vicki

  3. Norman...thanks for your very detailed comment. You're right, there is lots more to say on this...I couldn't get it all into one blog, but it is a fundamental difference between our nations, and a matter or current debate in Scotland. too.

  4. I thought the 85,000 speeding ticket was mainly due to the fact he was having sex with his girlfriend at the time!

    Looking forward to views on driving around in 2nd gear 'cos you can't ever get over 30 kph....