Hats off to Red-nosed Ken's vote for whisky

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THE unlikely figure of Ken Livingstone has emerged as a potential saviour for Scottish business. Not all Scottish business, mind you; Ken hasn't come out and confessed that, were it not for McCowan's Highland Toffee, he would be but a sad fragment of the powerful man he is.

But Ken did admit to taking a swig of whisky while conducting official business as Mayor of London, and since the whisky industry continues to be one of Scotland's biggest employers and exporters, this should be cause for universal jock rejoicing.

The impact of the Mayor of London's whisky endorsement has been watered down by the revelation that part of his weekly consumption took place at 10am, while he was conducting Mayor of London Question Time.

To which the coherent response has to be: so what? Let's be clear on what Ken and most other high-ranking public servants' jobs involve: making decisions. If it turned out that Livingstone had made a series of catastrophic decisions, the likes of which have never been seen in the public sector, and all of which coincided with him being spotted shortly beforehand necking from a Famous Grouse wee nifty, then perhaps his detractors would have a point.

Ultimately, all that matters is whether he is perceived to be taking the right decisions on the whole. As such, whether his armpits are steaming whisky clouds or not is neither here nor there. Livingstone himself pointed out that he had not yet reached the level of on-the-job booziness made famous by Winston Churchill.

Churchill's example more or less makes the point. What exactly was there about the conduct of arguably the UK's greatest leader when our shores were under imminent Nazi threat that could and should have been corrected by putting him on the wagon?

There is nothing morally wrong with drinking. Drinking on the job is morally deficient only when one knows what the job itself is. Clearly I don't want the last thing I perceive – as the injection hits and the heart surgeon leans over me – to be the distinct aroma of Morgan's Spiced emanating from his or her face mask. When I tear off my Daysaver and head for the top front of the bus to pretend I'm steering, I don't want to realise half way up the stairs that the bus driver appeared to have a Bacardi Breezer six-pack nestling between his legs.

The moral – and ultimately legal – case seems less clear with other professions. For example, if an Olympic downhill skier chooses to undertake the final time trial after a shot of Jaegermeister, I'm not sure who or what is being abused here. And so long as the call-centre representative can pronounce my name correctly and do what I ask them, frankly I don't care if they're sitting naked in an otherwise empty warehouse with a phone line and four crates of Newcastle Brown.

For those who really have any doubts of my arguments in this area, ask yourself this question – could the almighty fiasco that was the construction of the Scottish Parliament building have turned out any worse had they all been as drunk as Bacchus?

The only thing about Livingstone's otherwise exemplary behaviour, patriotic joy notwithstanding, is that whisky isn't exactly hard to detect on the breath so his overall wisdom might be called into question by his choice of soothing nectar.

You might also have read of the recent report suggesting that the more successful you are, the more you tend to drink. This would certainly explain why most of the losers who helped in the indecision-making process behind the parliament building weren't drunk. The survey also showed that the English drank less than the Scots. Now we have to be careful with this alleged finding.

Think about it: which small country do you know that has a highly competitive, chip on their shoulder attitude to their bigger, southern neighbour? Hint: us.

The English are well aware of both how much we like to beat them at anything, even Pop Idol, AND how much Scots fancy themselves as hard drinkers. What better way to engineer our tiny emergent nation's downfall than by, in effect, calling us a bunch of Drink Jessies, forcing us to show them who can drink themselves to death quickest.

It seems to me to be nothing more than a cunning English trap, and unlike Culloden, one that has the potential to get us all if we don't watch out. So, ignore this challenge and opt instead for a fruit juice on your next social outing. Leave the whisky to the politicians and others who need it more.

Welcome return of a restaurant star

IT'S not often I feel compelled to highlight a business before I've even been there, but the return of Edinburgh restaurateur David Ramsden to the helm of a eatery in this city is cause for unilateral pre-emptive endorsement.

His previous restaurant Rogue was one of the few places one could count on decent service in the slow, sullen smileless wasteland that passes for eating out in Edinburgh.

Now with The Dogs, Ramsden once again has the opportunity to show so many others in the business how it should be done.

And no, I don't know him personally . . . or get free meals.

Lessons in good service on menu

WHAT great news that McDonald's is to be offering bona fide qualifications to its workers. The snobbish among us – and there are plenty – love nothing more than sneering at this company and those who work there; it's a rather sad British habit. What I always find amusing is many establishments who clearly consider themselves above McDonald's so often fail to deliver – in terms of speed or politeness – the very basics of decent service. If more of our restaurants and cafes were to study at the University of McDonald's they might learn something about basic service minimums.

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