THERE is every reason to commend those who have signed up to Dry January, where people don’t drink alcohol for the first month of the year.
That doesn’t mean being opposed to the right of everyone to have a good time, but a period of restraint is to be supported.
Unsurprisingly, representatives of the licensed trade are less enthusiastic. They warn that Dry January harms their businesses, putting jobs at risk, and suggest that those who support charities through sponsorship during the month might find alternative ways to fund-raise.
Well, perhaps they might but, given Scotland’s problematic relationship with alcohol, Dry January seems to use to be a very good idea, indeed.
Habitual drinking can soon escalate into dependence. And that can lead to family break-ups, unemployment and even premature death.
There cannot be many Scots who do not, at the very least, know someone whose life has been adversely affected by drinking. A great many of us will have family members who have fallen victim to this most damaging addiction.
And, while Dry January is no cure for those gripped by alcohol addiction, it raises a difficult issue, encouraging us to think about the effect drinking has on many Scots.
The combination of cold, dark winter days and alcohol is often an unhappy one. What possible harm can come of removing booze from that equation for a few weeks each year?
Pub and club owners say that Dry January is damaging for trade and no one would take lightly any risk to jobs in Scotland. But the argument that some people eschewing the bottle for a month has a devastating impact on the trade is not as convincing as some might suggest.
Dry January comes right after the festive boom-time for the licensed trade. Having cashed in over Christmas and the New Year, surely pubs can struggle along without one or two regulars for a few short weeks.
In 2014 – the most recent figures available – almost 1,200 Scots died of alcohol-related illnesses. Tens of thousands more suffered illness, both physical and mental, caused by drinking.
Anything that gets us thinking and talking about this problem is to be encouraged. We raise a glass – containing only a soft drink – to Dry January.