SNP government against lifting football booze ban

While Hibs fans can enjoy a peaceful drink abroad, alcohol is barred at home. Picture: SNS
While Hibs fans can enjoy a peaceful drink abroad, alcohol is barred at home. Picture: SNS
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HEALTH secretary Shona Robison has said she would take a lot of persuading to lift the ban on alcohol at football matches and would be “very sceptical” about the change in the law demanded by Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.

Ms Robison said it is “always good to consult public opinion”, but warned that ending the ban on serving alcohol in football grounds to fans on match days would be a backwards step in the Scottish Government’s wider efforts to reduce alcohol consumption.

The minister’s opposition to relaxing the law came after Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said he was ready to discuss the move if it was shown to have public support.

However, Ms Robison signalled the SNP government would resist changing the law, despite growing pressure to permit alcohol at football grounds along similar lines to south of the Border, where fans can drink in stadium bars before kick-off and at half-time.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said she was “far from convinced” about removing the ban, stating that the “case has not been made”. During a cabinet visit to Aberdeen yesterday, she said: “Since that policy was introduced, I think most people would say that football matches have become more family friendly, better-behaved places to be.”

Mr Murphy has invited Scotland’s 42 football clubs, supporters and the Scottish Football Association to a summit at Hampden aimed at reversing the ban, which was introduced in the aftermath of booze-fuelled violence at the 1980 Cup final between Old Firm rivals Rangers and Celtic.

Ms Robison, a former sports secretary, acknowledged Scottish football has changed since the 1980s but said “horrendous scenes” at a recent match demonstrate that there is still an unacceptable amount of violence. Police made 37 arrests related to the Old Firm clash on 1 February, including 19 in and around the stadium.

Ms Robison said: “Scotland has a difficult relationship with alcohol and our position has been to reduce alcohol consumption. I just think this goes in completely the wrong direction.

“I am not convinced we have seen the eradication of football-related violence. In fact, I think we see it still far too much.

“I certainly would take a lot of persuading. I don’t think the arguments are solid, I think there are huge concerns.”

The minister suggested that allowing fans to drink for longer by opening bars in stadiums could “potentially” increase alcohol-related domestic abuse incidents.

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